The other day my burgeoning grey hairs sent me on a much overdue trip to the hairdresser for some TLC. As usual, I engaged in a bit of chit chat with my hairdresser, a lady in her mid-twenties. We were chatting about part-time work for teenagers as my very motivated 13 year old is already dreaming of the day she can secure her first after-school job and supplement (or even replace !) her pocket money and her parents with the trusty family wagon will no doubt embark on new adventures as her work taxi. My hairdresser was reminiscing about her first after-school job, not so long ago, at age 14 or 15 at the local fish and chip shop. She recalls getting paid $5 an hour ‘under the table’ and by the time payday came around she usually had to PAY THEM as they had been charging her for on-the-job meals – at full price. This story really affected me for a few reasons:
- Teenagers striking out into the workforce with eager hearts and naïve expectations are easily taken advantage of by unscrupulous business owners
- What kind of business owner would not only break the law, but exploit teenage labour like this?
- The situation was never remedied – I am not sure what role her parents played and if they knew the circumstances that she was employed under, but she didn’t know any better and accepted these conditions without question
So what are your obligations as employers of teenage workers ?
- The correct pay rate is a start – there are Junior pay rates that apply to workers under the age of 21. Paying workers under the table is illegal
- Providing the correct rest and meal breaks to these young employees
- You are not obliged to provide a meal allowance unless your employee has worked overtime, but would you really charge full price for food to a 15 year old working for your restaurant or café ?
My hairdresser moved on, her first job a distant if somewhat bitter memory. My own daughter is raring to go as soon as she can – and I will be making sure that her first job passes the ‘sniff test’. Teenage part -time workers are a crucial contributor to the workforce, let’s treat them respectfully and make their first experiences in the workforce positive ones.
Would you be happy for your teenager to work under unfair conditions?