Employment contract with a minor
We are a food processing company operating in a remote area. In the place where we are operating, there are many poor families and orphans and in order to help children and the orphans around, we would like to employ them to perform some light work available. Our questions are as follows: What is the minimum age for employment or engagement of a child? Does the law require employment contract with a child to be in writing? How can we execute employment contract with a minor? Is the company required to register the minor with statutory authorities like the pension fund, workers compensation fund and the revenue authority? Will the company be required to deduct and remit tax and pension contribution to the respective authorities? What is the procedure for terminating employment contract with a child? Can a child himself or herself lodge a complaint of unfair termination with the employment dispute settlement machinery against the company? Please remember that we intend to do so to uplift the child’s wellbeing and for the child to get pocket money. We want to be fully compliance. Kindly guide us.
Section 77(1) of the Law of the Child Act [Cap.13 R.E 2019] gives children the right to do light works. However, the employment contract with a minor is highly regulated by the law in order to protect children against exploitative labour, forced labour, night labour and hazardous work that might pose a danger to the health, safety or morals of the child. In addition to the Law of the Child Act, other laws that govern child employment are the Law of Child (Employment) Regulations, 2012 as amended by the Government Notice No.70 of 2019; the Employment and Labour Relations [Cap.366 R.E 2019] and the Employment and Labour Relations (Code of Good Practice) Rules, 2007. We must admit that this is a relatively unexplored area with very few cases, and your questions are very pertinent. At the outset we appreciate what you said in the question that you want to fully comply and you want to help our children.
Section 77(2) of the Law of the Law of Child Act and regulation 4(1)(2) of the Law of the Child (Employment) Regulations, 2012 as amended by the Government Notice No.70 of 2019 prescribes the age of fourteen years as the minimum age for employment or engagement of a child for light works.
Regulation 11(2) of the Law of the Child (Employment) Regulations, 2012 as amended by Government Notice No.70 of 2019 prohibits oral employment contract with a child. Employment contract with a minor should be in writing signed by the employer and counter signed by the child’s parent, guardian, local authority leader or a person or institution responsible for taking care of the child on behalf of the child. The details of the employment contract with a child should be read and explained to the child by the person signing on her/his behalf. The employer is responsible for preparation of the contract. The contract should contain a clause and signature showing that the child has consented to the terms and conditions of the contract in the presence of the employer and the person signing on his behalf
In order to protect the child against hazardous work, exploitative labour, night labour, and forced labour, employment contract with a child should outline duties of the child and state specific activities which the child will be engaged in; hours of work, duration of the contract and all the statutory rights and entitlements of an employee provided under Part III of the Employment and Labour Relations Act.
Section 78(3)(b) of the Law of Child sets six hours as the maximum working hours per day for a child. It is prohibited to engage a child to work between 8 pm and 6 am. A child who works more than three hours a day is entitled to one hour break. The break time is discounted in calculating the maximum working hours allowed for a child. Overtime work for a child is totally prohibited whether for or without payment. Although a child works only six hours a day, it is an offence to pay him less than the sectoral minimum wage rate prescribed under the law.
A child has all the rights to benefits offered by the pension fund and workers compensation fund thus the employer is obliged to register every child employed by him with the National Social Security Fund and Workers Compensation Fund. The employers’ contribution for the child to the respective fund has to be remitted together with contributions for other employees. Regulation 13(3) of the Law of the Child (Employment) Regulations, 2012 allows statutory deductions from the child’s wage. If a child earns more than the amount for which tax is exempted, employer must withhold tax from his wage. Since a child is entitled to the pension benefits, the employer has the duty to remit to the pension fund the employee’s share of contribution deducted from the child’s wage.
Though the law is silent on whether the employment contract with a child can extend after the child has attained the age of 18 years, it is our opinion that a contract with a child should not continue after the child has attained 18 years. Hence when the child becomes an adult, she or he should sign a contract with terms and conditions as an adult. Where a child is terminated for breach of contract or for misconduct, the same procedure used to terminate the adult should be invoked to terminate the child. However, the guardian or the parent or the person who signed the contract on behalf of the child should be involved in the termination process. Where a child is challenging fairness of the termination, he can lodge a complaint against the employer by filing a complaint in the CMA through his parent, guardian or an institution or authority that signed the contract on their behalf.