08 April 2010

New regulation for child labour

It is not illegal to employ a child of 15, but regulations introduced in January set out strict working conditions that have to be adhered to.

It is not illegal to employ a child of 15, but regulations introduced in January set out strict working conditions that have to be adhered to, according to the department of labour's website.

Earlier ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe questioned the employment of a minor. A statement by the Congress of SA Trade Unions following the arrest of a 15-year-old in connection with the murder of Eugene Terre'Blanche said that it was illegal.

Cosatu said: "The alleged killers were farm workers, one of them 15-years-old and therefore employed illegally, demanding unpaid wages of a paltry R300 a month."

Spesific working condition

However, the act, and regulations recently passed, set out how 15-year-olds may be employed, as well as their working conditions.

According to the Health and Safety of Children at Work Regulations, anyone employing a person between 15 and 18 must take a host of factors into account.

A child under 15, or one who is subject to compulsory schooling is not allowed to work, or help at a business.

This is in terms of the South African Schools Act, which stipulates that a child is subject to compulsory schooling until the last school day of the calendar year in which they turn 15, or the ninth grade, whichever comes first.

An exception to this is for children who work in the advertising, artistic or cultural industry and they must do so in

terms of a permit granted by the labour minister.

Safety regulations

Once a child has cleared these hurdles, the regulations set out for example, whether they can perceive workplace dangers correctly, their sensitivity to chemicals or hormone disruptors and their ability to understand safety messages.

It regulates the maximum weight they can lift in relation to their own body weight and even sets out steps on lifting heavy objects safely.

It regulates the temperature of their working environment, noise levels, and circumstances in which they may use power tools.

"Children are in a special time in their development and are not yet ready to take on the duties and responsibilities of adults," read the regulations.

They noted that their bodies are still growing, they may not adjust easily to working hours or to disturbed sleep, and that chemicals metabolise faster in their bodies.

Psychological factors

Psychologically they may try to do a little more than they should, to prove themselves. They might want acceptance from adults, are susceptible to peer pressure, and may want to assert their independence.

"Children often lack assertiveness and may be afraid to ask questions or speak up because they are concerned about looking stupid or losing their job," read one of the clauses.

It sets out steps an employer must take, which include thorough orientation, child-sensitive supervision and getting co-workers to mentor the child.

The regulations provide guidelines on reducing the chances of crime, like not counting cash in front of customers, and how to defuse a potentially violent situation.

No 'piecework'

Children may also not do "piecework" defined as payment which depends on the quality of work done.

They may not work more than eight hours a day. A child worker not attending school can't work more than 40 hours a week. If in school, the maximum is 20 hours a week, or 40 during school holidays.

Jobs they are banned from doing include deep sea fishing; slaughtering; meat, seafood or poultry processing; logging; work with tobacco products; handling firearms as part of protection duty; at filling stations; or be involved in brewing products that contain more than one percent of alcohol.

It is also an offence to use a child for begging or scavenging.

Different circumstances on farms

Attorney Ronaldah Ngidi, of the Centre for Child Law, said children working on farms faced vastly different circumstances to those in the entertainment industry, or those working to buy fashionable shoes.

"If parents can't work, or parents die, the children quit school to work on the farms to support the whole family," she observed.

She said research had found some children worked because they did not have identity documents or birth certificates and so their parents could not get grants. - (Sapa, April 2010)




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