New rules for child labour
Print article Email article
New Act helps Terre'blanche accused
Johannesburg - 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.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions said in a statement earlier on Wednesday that it was illegal to employ a minor. This follows the arrest of a 15-year-old in connection with the murder of Eugene Terre'Blanche.
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."
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 years, 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.
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.
Rules for employers
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.
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.
Attorney Ronaldah Ngidi, of the Centre for Child Law, said children working on farms faced vastly different circumstances to those in the entertainment or retail 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.
Read more on: jobs | cosatu | eugene terre'blanche