New bill regulating child labour in Québec
Updated: Mar 30
On March 28, Québec Labour Minister Jean Boulet introduced Bill 19, a bill to limit the work of school-age children. This long-promised legislation resolves a legal limbo that has existed in the province for many years.
Historically, Quebecers under the age of 16, the age of compulsory school attendance, could work if they had written permission from their parents. In practice, this permission was rarely sought for those over the age of 14, and in the case of some employers, it was never formally requested.
The summer of 2022 saw an explosion in the number of young people under 14 years old working. There were also some serious accidents. Combined with a drop in the school completion rate, the government wanted to act quickly.
The bill as presented was supported in principle by all opposition parties. It should therefore be passed within a reasonable time frame and without many amendments.
What the law changes
A young person must now be at least 14 years old to work in Québec, with some exceptions related to family businesses and activities related to schooling. Working with other children (day camps, or babysitting) will also be allowed under certain conditions. However, parental consent will be required and penalties for non-compliant employers will be significantly increased. This measure will take effect as soon as the bill is passed.
Adolescents over the age of 14 will still be allowed to work. However, during the school year, this will be limited to a total of 10 hours on weekdays and 17 hours over the course of a full week for those under the age of compulsory school attendance. This measure will take effect on September 1, 2023.
With this bill, Québec aims to regulate the work of young people and rein in the excesses that were beginning to be observed. The new legislation will also increase the severity of sanctions against employers who violate the law, in an effort to incentivize compliance and return responsibility to parents.
Given ongoing, widespread worker shortages across the province, Québec businesses were not very receptive to the idea of introducing legislation. However, it must be acknowledged that the unwillingness of many employers to rigorously apply the old standards led to the current situation and compelled the government to act.
The new legislation also marks a regulatory shift in focus towards school attendance and prioritizing the role of youth as students.