School-age work by-laws out of step with law

More
than nine out of 10 local authority by-laws on school-age working are out of
step with national legislation, according to a report by the TUC and the
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

The
result, say the two organisations, is that parents, teachers and young people
are confused about how much and what kind of work teenagers can do.

The
report, ‘Dazed and confused: Why child employment laws in England are baffling
parents and teenagers’, is based on a survey of the 149 local authorities in
England, and finds that 119 councils of the 132 who responded have by-laws that
are incorrect or unclear on the rules governing the employment of 13-16 year
olds.

The
TUC/NSPCC research is published on the same day as a report from the Better
Regulation Taskforce that calls on the Government to simplify the law on child
employment.

Only
13 councils in the TUC/NSPCC survey – eight county councils, one London borough
and four unitary authorities – have by-laws that are correct in every respect.

Written
for the TUC by Carolyn Hamilton, director of the Children’s Legal Centre at the
University of Essex, the report says that council by-laws are meant to give
further detail on national legislation, not confuse or contradict it. The study
also reveals considerable variation in the limits placed on school-age working
by different councils.

TUC
general secretary Brendan Barber said: "The multitude of national and
local laws is leaving teenagers, parents and teachers dazed and confused. It’s
currently almost impossible to get accurate information on child employment in
much of the country. But local councils should not get all the blame. National
law is too complex and the Government has done little to encourage councils to
implement the law.

"The
TUC has long been urging action to better protect youngsters at work," he
said, "so today’s announcement from the Better Regulation Tasforce is very
welcome. What is now needed from Government is a clear legal framework and
councils need a commitment to ensure that the rules are both publicised and
enforced.

"It’s
right that young people should get experience of work and have the chance to
earn," Barber added, "but they should not be exploited or allowed to
let work damage their studies." 

The
TUC wants the Government to:


introduce a national code bringing together all parts of the law to clarify the
situation and ensure that parents, employers and young people are aware of
their rights and the risks they need to be protected from


ensure that any national code means the end of the multitude of local by-laws
and removes any contradictions within existing legislation


give local authorities more resources to enable them to spend more time
checking how young people are being employed in their part of the country and
launch a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the law.

By Quentin Reade

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