With the summer season approaching and a significant labour shortage, hiring young workers can be an interesting avenue for businesses. What are the responsibilities of employers and the rules that must be followed to ensure their health and safety?
Employers who hire young workers must first comply with certain laws enacted by the Quebec government to better supervise the work of teenagers. Young employees have access to the conditions regulated by the Act respecting labour standards and the Act respecting occupational health and safety. However, other obligations apply depending on the age of the current employee.
In particular, the CNESST states that an employer must ensure that the work schedule of a young person under 16 years of age ensures that he or she attends class and is able to be at home between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Currently, young people under the age of 14 can work in Quebec if a parent or guardian authorizes it in writing. However, Labour Minister Jean Boulet has announced that Bill 19, which will prohibit employers, with certain exceptions, from employing children under the age of 14, will come into force in the fall of 2023.
Employees more at risk
Younger workers, who are often low-skilled and work in jobs that do not require specific training, are also more vulnerable employees. Employers must therefore take their health and safety into account by applying the recommendations of the CNESST, which has noted, among other things, a 36% increase in work-related accidents in the young employee category in 2021. These obligations include “that a minor shall not engage in work that is beyond his or her capacity or that is likely to interfere with his or her education or to be harmful to his or her health or physical or moral development.”
Companies must therefore ensure that they provide the necessary protective equipment, adequately train and supervise the young people hired, and inform them of the risks associated with their tasks. The design of safe work environments and the regulation of hours worked are also elements to be given priority, according to the CNESST.
Various organizations have developed programs to better supervise the work of young employees. This is the case of the Comité régional pour la valorisation de l’éducation, which in 2006 launched the Oser-Jeunes program, a certification that can be received by employers who value work-life balance within their company.
Coffrages Synergy, a construction company, has created the Institut Synergy for carpentry and woodworking students. The program provides young workers with guidance from mentors and access to tools and training on work site techniques.