Restrictions on the employment of minors are as follows:
0–6 years old
work under an employment contract is prohibited without exception;
7–12 years old
15–16 annual compulsory school attendance
Specifics regarding minor workers
A young person with little life and work experience needs more guidance and attention than an adult worker. Often, young people are also more risk-tolerant and experiment more, they get distracted more easily and, as a result, may need more rest breaks, for example.
When assessing the risks already present in the working environment, all these peculiarities shall be taken into account, i.e. an employer shall carry out an additional risk analysis of the work environment, taking into account the child or young person who enters employment.
The results of monitoring in recent years have shown that the biggest problem is working and rest time, regarding which the special age requirements are either not known or forgotten. There have also been instances where a child will go and prepare a hotel breakfast buffet at 4 AM before school. This is not in accordance with the law because a person under the age of 18 may not work before 6 AM, and working immediately before school starts is also not allowed.
There are sometimes tensions between a child who has performed work and the employer over the payment of wages. Although children and young people have limited working hours, they shall be paid equally to adults, i.e. at least minimum wage. This remuneration cannot be reduced even if an employer later considers the work to be of poor quality. If a child receives less than the applicable minimum wage for work, he or she has the right to turn to a labour dispute committee or court equally to adults.
Minors should also not lift heavy loads at work even if they look like adults. One must not forget that their bodies are still developing and even a small damage to their health can later progress and reduce their capacity for work for the rest of their life. We often see young people who want to do as much and as quickly as possible. In such cases, it is up to the employer to intervene and hold the young person back a bit.
The right of ergonomic and safe working methods and variety of work are certainly important. Exposure to chemicals – paints, varnishes, solvents, cleaning agents, etc. – is also a problem. The chemical safety data sheet and the list of work prohibited for minors shall be used. Even for the simple task of painting a fence, it should be checked whether the paint used is suitable to a child and does not contain strong irritants or even carcinogens.
One should also be very careful with machines and devices used by young employees for work, meaning that even a regular lawnmower is not suitable work equipment for a child, although they may do the same work at home with the permission of their parent.
However, exceptions may be made to the provisions of prohibited work on entering into employment contracts with minors or permitting them to work if the minor is working on the basis of a traineeship as part of a vocational training course and provided that the work is performed under the supervision of the traineeship supervisor or a workplace specialist and that the necessary measures have been taken to ensure the health and safety of the minor.
Minors are allowed to perform light work
Light work refers to work where the job responsibilities are simple and do not require much physical or mental effort. For example, a minor is allowed to perform the following work:
- agricultural work (picking berries and fruits);
- ancillary work performed in trade or service establishments (unpacking and shelving goods);
- ancillary work performed in catering or accommodation establishments (setting tables);
- handicrafts (making souvenirs);
- office work (working as a secretary);
- cleaning or tidying work;
- work in the field of culture, art, sports or advertising.
The list of hazards has been established by regulation of the Government of the Republic “List of occupational hazards and work prohibited to minors”. For example, minors are prohibited to work in a workplace where the noise level exceeds 80 dB, work is performed with carcinogenic chemicals, work involves a risk of structural collapse, work is performed with a mechanical cutter, etc.
Restrictions on the employment of minors may also result from special laws.
- Pursuant to the Alcohol Act, minors shall not be employed for work related to the handling of alcohol, except upon storage or distribution of such alcohol for commercial purposes if it is ensured that in the course of it minors come into contact with alcohol only in unopened packaging.
- Pursuant to the Tobacco Act, it is prohibited to employ minors for work related to the handling of tobacco products, products intended for consuming tobacco products, products used similarly to tobacco products or components thereof.
- Pursuant to the Gambling Act, a gambling operator shall ensure that a person under 21 years of age is not tasked with conducting a game of chance, lottery or toto, make decisions on the right to participate in a game of chance, lottery or toto or carry out supervision of a game of chance, lottery of toto;
When employing a minor, the age and compulsory school attendance of the minor shall also be taken into account. A minor is subject to compulsory school attendance until graduating from basic school or reaching the age of 17. What a minor can do and what working hours are allowed also largely depend on his or her age and whether he or she is subject to compulsory school attendance. For example:
- Minors of 7–12 years of age are only allowed to do light work in the field of culture, art, sports or advertising.
- An employer may enter into an employment contract with a minor of 13–16 years of age subject to the obligation to attend school and allow him or her to work if the duties are simple and do not require any major physical or mental effort.
- In the case of minors of 13 years of age, the legislator has also found it necessary to provide a list of expected tasks a 13-year-old could perform. For example, a minor of 13 years can do the following work: agricultural work, ancillary work performed in trade or service establishments, ancillary work performed in catering or accommodation establishments and other light work that is not prohibited for minors.
Make sure the workplace is safe
As a young worker, you should only stay in the area assigned to you by your employer for at least some time after you commence work. First, familiarise yourself with your workplace so that you can feel safe there.
- It is not advisable for you to go to the workplaces of your co-workers where you do not have to perform tasks, because you do not know the specifics of the work performed there and the risks involved. Although this may seem interesting and you may want to get an overview of the company’s activities, it can endanger yourself and those co-workers whose workplaces you visit on your own initiative.
- There may be hazards outside your workplace that you are unaware of, such as moving tools, loads moved with lifting equipment, slippery floors, or hazardous chemicals.
- Try to make your workplace ergonomic. An employee who worked in the same workplace before you may have been of different height and thus a workplace designed for him or her is not suitable for you. In many cases, the height of worktops and office chairs can be changed. For example, a taller employee requires a higher worktop so that they would not have to hunch down while working.
- An ergonomically correct working area is even required for a seemingly safe work like working with a monitor. Otherwise, musculoskeletal disorders will soon occur. If you lack the necessary skills or still feel uncomfortable in your workplace after adjusting it yourself, ask for help from your supervisor, working environment representative or co-workers.
- About a quarter of all accidents at work are caused by slips and trips. Therefore, it is important to keep the workplace tidy. Do not leave anything in the pathways or place objects there. If you need to install cables or hoses for tools, make sure that they do not obstruct the movement of yourself or your colleagues.
- A large proportion of accidents at work do not occur in the course of normal operation of machinery and equipment, but rather when they are maintained, repaired or a fault is being rectified. You have to realise that you may only perform tasks that you are competent to perform. If maintenance and repairs are assigned to a technician, you as a user of the tool may not perform these tasks yourself and must give notice that this work is required.
Be aware of hazards
Young people can benefit a lot from work experience, as it offers a great opportunity to acquire important work skills, but as a young person commencing work, you are more at risk than your older co-workers. However, gaining work experience must be safe and not harmful to your health.
Both the work and workplace are new to you, you have no experience, and the work or working environment can be dangerous. You have the right to safe and healthy work, including the right to receive the necessary training and guidance, to ask questions and to report things that seem dangerous to you.
- If you are a minor, the law prohibits you from doing certain hazardous work. Restrictions on the work to be performed are listed in Regulation No. 94 of 11.06.2009 of the Government of the Republic “List of occupational hazards and work prohibited to minors”. For example, there are restrictions on noise level. If the noise level in the working environment exceeds 85 dB, adult workers shall wear hearing protection. However, minors may not work in a working environment where the noise level exceeds 80 dB.
- Minors are prohibited from performing work involving a risk of falling from a height or work with a mechanical cutter, circular saw, band saw, milling cutter, welding device or a device using compressed air. The regulation provides a list of hazardous chemicals that minors shall not be exposed to along with the hazard symbols and risk phrases of such substances.
- Regulation No. 26 of the Minister of Social Affairs of 27 February 2001 “The occupational health and safety requirements for manual handling of loads” also imposes a special requirement on the work of minors: if manual handling comprises the main part of an employee’s working time, an employee who is over 18 years of age may be employed for manual handling of items that are 5 kg and heavier. Manual handling is prohibited for minors under the age of 16.
The restriction is imposed due to the inability of minors to perceive danger because of their lack of experience or training and the fact that they are unable to sufficiently focus on safety.
NB! As a young person, you have the right to express doubts about things that seem dangerous. Unfortunately, young people often feel too insecure to talk about their suspicions or simply accept the situation because they want to prove to their employer and co-workers that they can handle everything on their own and are not scared. But this may endanger their lives! Your life!
- If a young worker has any doubts regarding the safety and organisation of any aspect of his or her work, he or she has the right and obligation to inform his or her supervisor and to refuse to perform hazardous work. A young person is not obliged to do something dangerous simply because his or her supervisor or co-worker does it.
- If employees in your company have chosen a representative for occupational health and safety issues, i.e. a working environment representative, talk to him or her about your problem.
- It makes sense to tell your friends and parents and a trusted adult about your working conditions. They probably have experience with occupational health and safety in their current or previous place of work and can give advice on how to avoid problems that they have had to face.
- If you do not receive help or cannot find a solution to your problem within the company, you have the opportunity to turn to the Labour Inspectorate for help.
- In addition to looking out for your own safety, you need to know how to perform work without endangering your co-workers. Think about how you would feel if something happened to another employee because of your actions or inactions, even if it was not directly your fault. That is why you need to know what your employer is required to do to protect you, what you need to do yourself, and what your rights are.