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Should Children Be Allowed In The Workplace?

Published May 21, 2021 Author: Employsure
Employee supervising a child in the workplace.

Working parents may struggle with childcare arrangements when children are unable to attend school, whether due to holidays or COVID-19 lockdowns. So, when your employee asks if they can bring their child into work, should you say yes?

While bringing the child to work may resolve childcare issues for the parents – and help keep them at work – it may also place an additional strain on employers. Under workplace health and safety legislation employers have an obligation to take reasonable steps to keep workers and visitors to the workplace healthy and safe, which includes protecting children from the risk of harm.

Dangers In The Workplace

Generally, for the purposes of employment relations and health and safety, a child is considered a person aged 15 years’ old or younger (although note that there may be different definitions or restrictions based on age depending on specific legislation).  A child might be at your workplace because they are employed there, or being cared for (e.g. childcare).

Any workplace environment, as it is typically intended for adults, can pose unexpected hazards for children regardless of why they are there. Children are usually smaller, mostly more agile and active than adults, and often oblivious to any danger or threats to their safety. They may get into areas they shouldn’t, especially with inadequate supervision. According to Safe Work Australia (there don’t seem to be any statistics for child workers in NZ), an average of 11 children aged between 0 to 14 die in work-related accidents each year.  In addition, the presence of a child in the workplace could be distracting for workers which could increase the risk of a workplace accident.

Minimising Risk

If you want to allow employees to bring children to work, you should consider the following:

Is The Workplace Suitable For Children?

Some work areas or activities are simply too dangerous for children in any circumstances. Construction sites, for example, pose many risks to health and safety, and therefore access should ideally be limited to minors over 14 years of age for employment or training purposes only – for example if they are apprentices – in which case they should be inducted onto the site, provided with personal protective equipment, and directly supervised at all times.  This will also depend on any industry-specific restrictions in legislation. 

Additional Safety Measures

Assess the risks and implement a workplace policy that sets out conditions for bringing children into the workplace to try and mitigate them. For example, you may require that parents notify management in advance of their intention to bring a child to work, sign the child in and out, supervise their child at all times, and that children are confined to certain areas and/or times.

BrightSafe can help you manage your health and safety obligations with risk assessment and hazard reporting tools and templates. The Responsibilities Navigator allows you to set up task notifications and reminders, delegate responsibilities, and save task records.

It makes sense to forbid children access to certain areas of your workplace, particularly those that contain sensitive information, or dangerous equipment or machinery. Your policy may need to address whether children can use equipment such as computers or workstations. In any case, make sure the child knows where the bathroom is, and what to do in case of an emergency.

BrightSafe for Health and Safety

BrightSafe software supports you in managing your health and safety obligations, helping you build a safer business.

Impact On Productivity

Children around your workplace may impact productivity or interfere with customer service, especially if those children do not have any activity to occupy them. Consider how the presence of children in the workplace could impact your customers and your staff.

Whether to allow parents to bring their children to work is a decision for each individual employer, that should be made after they have assessed any health and safety risks and the necessary steps to mitigate them. Consider the specifics of the workplace, supervision options or lack thereof, whether employees can reasonably be expected to perform their usual job duties safely and efficiently while keeping an eye on their children, as well as other factors such as insurance.

Call us for free initial advice as to your obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace.

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About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small- and medium-businesses, with over 5,000 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

This website article has been compiled on the basis of general information current at the time of publication. Changes in circumstances after publication may affect the completeness or accuracy of this information. To the maximum extent permitted by law, we disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions contained in this information or any failure to update or correct this information. It is your responsibility to assess and verify the accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability of the information on this website, and to seek professional advice where necessary. Nothing contained on this website is to be interpreted as a recommendation to use any product, process or formulation or any information on this website. For clarity, Employsure does not recommend any material, products or services of any third parties. 

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