The operators of an IGA supermarket in regional Western Australia have been hit with a $2250 penalty for illegally employing an underage worker.
According to a statement from the WA Department of Commerce, an 11-year-old girl worked five weekend shifts as a shop assistant at the Jurien Bay IGA in August 2014
But under the Western Australian Children and Community Services Act 2004, retailers are prohibited from employing children younger than 13 years. Children aged between 13 and 15 years can work in retail businesses as long as they are not required to work before 6am or after 10pm and the retailer has obtained permission from a parent or guardian.
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The case was heard in the Perth Industrial Magistrates Court on Wednesday after MMG (WA) Pty Ltd, the company which operates the supermarket, was charged with breaching the act.
Joseph Lee, acting executive director of the Commerce Department’s Labour Relations Division, said in the same statement the penalty should serve as a reminder to employers of their legal obligations.
“Of particular concern in this matter is the very young age of the child concerned,” Lee said.
A spokesperson for IGA parent company Metcash told SmartCompany all IGA stores are independently owned so each individual business owner is responsible for its own recruitment.
The spokesperson also said it is the responsibility of employers to be aware of the minimum age requirements in their state or territory.
But Emma Starkey, senior associate in Maurice Blackburn’s employment and industrial practice, told SmartCompany legislation relating to the minimum age requirements of workers differs substantially between Australian states and territories.
“Ultimately rules will vary between states and certain exceptions will also apply,” Starkey says.
For example, under Victorian legislation, it is a common misconception that all workers must be at least 14 years and 9 months old, but Starkey says it is possible for an 11-year-old to be employed delivering newspapers.
“It depends on the nature of the work,” she says.
“There are also exceptions for family businesses so it up to the owner to fully understand their obligations.”
Starkey says minimum age requirements can often be more of an issue for smaller businesses in regional areas and says business owners should also be aware of any rules in their state relating to working with children police checks.
SmartCompany contacted the Jurien Bay IGA store but did not receive a response prior to publication.