Editorial: Protecting young workers

The provincial government has studied the province’s labour laws and plans a suite of changes, mainly to protect young people and other vulnerable workers.

After 16 years of B.C. Liberal governments, it is not surprising that an NDP government saw room for change. As columnist Les Leyne pointed out last week, labour law in B.C. has tended to swing dramatically as the NDP and more right-wing governments swapped power over the past four decades.

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This time, Premier John Horgan’s New Democrats focused on protecting young workers, generally raising the minimum age for work to 16 from 12. Regulations to be announced later will specify the kind of work that younger people can do. Newspaper routes, for instance, will be OK, but some other jobs will be ruled out.

The move was backed by a report from WorkSafe B.C., which found the agency had paid $5.2 million in claims for workplace injuries to children 15 and under. Injuries at any age can be life-altering, so those to children are of particular concern.

We don’t want them getting hurt before they even have a chance to choose their path in life.

The government will have to be careful with the regulations, because workplace experience can be good for teens who are exploring the possibilities outside the classroom. Protecting them from harm must be balanced against the valuable lessons to be gained from those first forays into the world of employment.

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