Council staff from across the country are visiting businesses and other people in a new campaign to raise public awareness of the laws on employing children. It follows a survey by local authorities last year, which found that almost 40 per cent of working children in the UK were employed illegally.
Child Employment Fortnight is joining co-ordinating efforts by local education authorities from now until June 4th. The campaign is organised by the National Network for Children in Employment and Entertainment, an organisation made up of people working within relevant areas of legislation.
Under current laws a young person can be employed from the age of 14, but local authorities can permit employment from 13. The legislation also sets out permitted hours and the kinds of work young people can undertake. It lays down the need for businesses to have a work permit for any school age employees. Last year visits by local authority staff found 1,394 school aged children working in various occupations. Of these, 541 were working illegally, either without the required permit, working hours outside permitted times or in prohibited occupations. Research has also shown that about 60 children are seriously injured or killed each year while working. Children who are being employed illegally are not normally covered by the employer’s insurance and are unlikely to get compensation for their injuries.
Paul Kirkham from the NNCEE said many young people benefited from part time working. Mr. Kirkham, who is also Education Welfare Officer and Juvenile Employment Officer for Cornwall’s Children’s Services Authority, added: “Child Employment laws exist to safeguard the education, health and welfare of compulsory school age employees and we are becoming increasingly concerned that a lack of awareness and understanding of these laws is leaving young people vulnerable to exploitation and injury.”