The Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act 1966 (“Act”) was passed to regulate any labour of a child or young person. Under the Act, a “child” is a person who is under the age of fifteen years and a “young person” is a person who is fifteen or older, but below the age of eighteen years.
On 1 February 2019, amendments to the Act (“Amendments”) came into force. Here are some of the key changes:
Previously, under the Act, a child may engage in employment involving light work which is suitable to his capacity in any undertaking carried on by his family. Prior to the Amendments, light work was defined as “any work performed by a worker while sitting with moderate movement of the arm, leg and trunk; or while standing with mostly moderate movement of the arm.”
The Amendments now state that a child or young person with a minimum age of thirteen may perform any light work, which is redefined as “any work not likely harmful to his health be it, mentally or physically or any work which will not prejudice his attendance at school that includes any place which teaches any religion, his participation in vocational orientation or training programmes approved by the competent authority or his capacity to benefit from the instruction received.”
List of hazardous work
The Amendments now provide an extensive list of hazardous work in which a child or young person is not permitted to engage in:
- Any work related to machines, installations and other equipment which may pose high risk such as drilling machines; grinding machines; steam boiler; installations of pressure pipe; electricity; and electricity transmission lines;
- Any work that is conducted in hazardous environment such as any underground work; or working at a height which can lead to serious bodily injury; or working in an environment with noise or vibration where the intensity exceeds permissible exposure limits; or
- Any work that contains certain hazardous nature and condition such as construction work including the construction of building; work in timber industry such as cutting, transporting and unloading trees; or any offshore work such as working in a petroleum platform.
List of work not permitted to be engaged by a child or young person
A new Schedule was also introduced in the Amendments, which specifically prohibits the employment of a child or young person in any of these areas:
- Any employment which offer children or young persons for prostitution;
- Any employment as social escorts, hostesses and other related activities;
- Any employment which require children or young persons to involve in the production or trade of alcoholic beverages;
- Any employment which require children or young persons to work in any activities related to massage or reflexology services;
- Any employment that offer children or young persons for any job related to pornography; and
- Any employment which involve children or young persons for the production and trade of drugs which are prohibited under the law in operation.
Contravention of the Act
Under the Amendments, penalties or fines for contravening any of the provisions under this Act have been enhanced to imprisonment not exceeding two years and / or a fine not exceeding RM 50,000.00 for the first offence. In the event of a second or subsequent offence, the penalty is imprisonment not exceeding five years and / or a fine not exceeding RM 100,000.00.
The Act still allows for children and young person to be employed, but in limited capacities. For example, in addition to light work, children and young persons can also be employed in any public entertainment in accordance with the terms and conditions of the license granted, or to be employed as an apprentice under a written apprenticeship contract approved by the Director General. A child and young person may also be employed in any office, shop (including hotels, restaurants and stalls), godown, factory, workshop, store, boarding house, theatre, cinema or association.
That being said, the original Act has placed limitations as to the number of days of work and hours of work for children and young persons and this has remained unchanged by the Amendments. For example, no child engaged in any employment shall be required or permitted:
- to work between the hours of 8 o’clock in the evening and 7 o’clock in the morning;
- to work for more than three consecutive hours without a period of rest of at least thirty minutes;
- to work for more than six hours in a day or, if the child is attending school, for a period which together with the time he spends attending school, exceeds seven hours; or
- to commence work on any day without having had a period of not less than fourteen consecutive hours free from work.
(There are different limitations in the hours of work for a young person.)
As these Amendments were introduced to be in line with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards, it is evident that the authorities are committed to ensure that children’s labour rights are protected and employers would have a higher accountability for their employees who are children or young persons.
This article was written by Donovan Cheah with assistance from Natalie Ng (pupil in chambers). Donovan has been named as a recommended lawyer for labour and employment by the Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2017, 2018 and 2019, and he has also been recognised by Chambers Asia Pacific and Asialaw Profiles for his employment law and industrial relations work.
Donovan & Ho is a law firm in Malaysia. Our practice areas include employment law, dispute resolution, tax advisory and corporate advisory. Have a question? Please contact us.