Regulator Blasts ‘Disregard’ for Child Employment Laws

Regulator Blasts ‘Disregard’ for Child Employment Laws
Photo of the Melbourne's Magistrate's Court on November 17, 2018. (Google Street View)

Parents would have “every right to feel let down” after the latest breach of Victoria’s child employment laws, the regulator says.

TK Maxx, which has more than 80 stores across Australia, has admitted one of its Victorian stores employed two young children without the required permit.

Wage Inspectorate Victoria charged the company with the breaches following a compliance blitz in December 2022.

The inspectorate found the Werribee store in Melbourne’s southwest was employing a child aged under 15 without a permit.

It warned the business the child must stop work immediately but TK Maxx Werribee instead hired a second child without a permit the following week.

The inspectorate charged the company with seven offences, including the permit breaches and failing to ensure a child was supervised by someone with a Working With Children clearance.

TK Maxx Werribee on April 16 pleaded guilty in Melbourne Magistrates Court to the charges, which were between Sep. 28 and Dec. 26, 2022.

In sentencing, Magistrate Malcolm Thomas described the offending as inadvertent and noted the business’ lack of prior convictions and early guilty pleas.

He placed the business on a 12-month good behaviour bond with the condition it pay $5000 (US$3200) to the court fund.

The wage inspectorate’s Commissioner Robert Hortle said TK Maxx Werribee had received clear warnings that it ignored.

“The parents who gave permission for their kids to work at (the store) have every right to feel let down,” Mr. Hortle said in a statement.

“It’s behaviour that shows a disregard for child employment laws and for the wellbeing of its young employees.

“Kids don’t have the same mental or physical stamina as adults, so they can’t work the same hours and need to have regular rest breaks.

“It’s concerning to see a workplace of this size fail to take the welfare of kids into account.”

TK Maxx declined to comment.

It is the latest business to run foul of Victoria’s child employment laws.

Wodonga Food Pty Ltd, which operated the Wodonga Red Rooster outlet near the Victoria-NSW border, was fined in February over 29 charges involving 10 children under 15, across 169 occasions in 2022.

The offences had been rolled up from an initial 355 charges.

Port Fairy business Cobb’s Bakery was fined $5000 in December 2023 for repeatedly employing children under the age of 15 without a permit.

In Victoria, employers of children aged under 15 must have a child employment permit or licence before any work takes place.

The children must be supervised by someone with a valid Working with Children clearance, and there are restrictions on the length of the shifts and when the children must take breaks.

During the December 2022 compliance blitz, the inspectorate visited 169 businesses across eight shopping centres including Chadstone and Highpoint.

Four investigations stemmed from the blitz, with a further three businesses receiving official warnings.

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.