New Protections for Young Workers in the BC ESA

New protections for young workers in the BC ESA

On October 15, 2021, the BC Employment Standards Act will be amended to raise the general working age to 16 and to define acceptable jobs for employees under 16.

Any workers under the age of 16 will require written permission from their parents to work and the employer must keep a record of the written consent. Employers seeking to employ children under 14 years of age must submit an application for a child employment permit to the Employment Standards Branch.

These rules will not apply to children working on a farm owned by an immediate family member or where the child is employed in relation to a sports or recreational activity for children less than 16 years of age as a camp assistant, assistant coach, referee or umpire.

Children 12 to 15 years of age may only perform the following work:

  • Camp assistant;
  • Assistant coach;
  • Referee;
  • Umpire;
  • On a family farm or in a family business; and
  • Performing in the entertainment industry.

In addition, 14 and 15 year olds may perform “light work”, which is work that is not considered to be harmful to a child’s health or development, which includes:

  • Administrative and secretarial work;
  • Work at a business selling or providing goods or services (i.e. retail);
  • Work at a business preparing, selling or serving food or beverages;
  • Child care;
  • Cleaning and tidying;
  • Laundry and ironing;
  • Yard and maintenance work;
  • Gardening and hand harvesting;
  • Work related to care of domesticated animals;
  • Packing, moving and unpacking household goods;
  • Delivery; and
  • Troubleshooting technological issues.

The following occupations are also considered “light work”:

  • cashier;
  • computer programmer;
  • golf caddy;
  • lifeguard or assistant lifeguard;
  • messenger or courier;
  • peer counsellor;
  • performing artist;
  • recreation or community program attendant;
  • referee or umpire;
  • salesperson, other than a door-to-door salesperson;
  • server of food or drink or both;
  • sports or recreational coach or assistant coach;
  • sports or recreational instructor;
  • summer or day camp leader, counsellor, assistant or attendant;
  • tutor or instructor;
  • visual artist or graphic designer; and
  • writer, editor or similar occupation in communication.

The revised Regulation also defines tasks that are not light work:

  • Machinery, tools or other equipment that could harm the child;
  • Places where children are prohibited;
  • Sites of construction, heavy manufacturing or heavy industrial work or other work that could harm the child;
  • Places designed to retain a low oxygen or toxic environment;
  • Walk-in freezers or coolers except to retrieve an item;
  • Goods or services that a minor cannot legally distribute, purchase, use or consume;
  • Lifting, carrying or moving and item or animal that puts the child at risk of injury; and
  • Hazardous chemicals or materials as defined in the Workers Compensation Act.

(collectively, “Tasks excluded from Light Work”)

Employers that require children under 16 to perform Tasks excluded from Light Work or any work that they are not expressly permitted to do in the lists above must submit an application for a child employment permit and get the Director’s permission.

These restrictions will limit work children of business owners can perform in the family business and should be reviewed by those employers of children to ensure compliance.

Children hired before October 15, 2021

The rules for hiring children will not apply to children hired before October 15, 2021 if:

  1. The child’s position and duties have not changed since October 15, 2021; and
  2. On January 15, 2022, the child will be
    • 16 years of age, or
    • 14 years of age, and the child’s position and duties involve only “Light Work”


In addition to the above, there are also amendments that affect babysitters, which are referred to as “Sitters” in the legislation. Currently, Sitters are excluded from the Act and so are not entitled to its minimums.

Under the amendments, Sitters who work more than an average of 15 hours per week in a four-week period will be entitled to the protections under the Act, such as minimum wage, vacation and statutory holiday pay, overtime, notice of termination, etc.

Sitters are (thankfully) explicitly excluded from the parental consent and/or Director permission requirements for hiring children.


If you want more information on this topic, you can contact us at:

Geoffrey Howard:  

604 424-9686

Sebastian Chern:    

604 424-9688