Child labour is illegal and the penalty is a fine of $30,000 and or a jail term of up to three years. This is stipulated in the proposed bill Labor and Employment Relations Act 2022 pending before Parliament.
Leader of the Opposition Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi expressed concerns about the conditions on employment of minors during the pre sitting yesterday. He wanted an explanation of the “light work” outlined for 13-year-olds minors.
This is according to the pre-sitting document summarising the issues raised.
Tuilaepa pointed out that such conditions to employ minors under Clause 32 section 51 permit a 13-year-old to engage in “light work” employment and asked for a definition of “light work”, to be stipulated in the proposed bill.
“This needs to be clarified to ensure the safety of the minor.
“And that 16-year-olds should be given entrance to work for general employment and 18-year-olds to be employed in more heavy work, based on our Fa’asamoa culture and way of life where parents would need the assistance of the children for the development of their families.”
According to the measure, under substituted section 51 for the employment of children, a person must not engage or employ a child under the age of 16 except lightwork stipulated in the Act.
“An employer may employ a child of no less than 13 years of age in light work that, is unlikely to be harmful to the health and development of the child; will not affect the child’s attendance at school or vocational training during school hours or at any other time if the work would prevent or interfere with the child’s attendance at school, active participation in school activities or the child’s educational development; will not adversely affect the child’s ability to benefit from school or vocational training, and complies with regulations.
“A person must not engage or employ a child under the age of 18 in hazardous work, which by its nature, or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to jeopardise the child’s health, safety or morals as provided for in regulations.”
In violation of these sections commits an offence, and upon conviction, is liable to a fine not exceeding $30,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years.”.
The former Prime Minister also pointed out the importance of amendments made regarding ‘sex and female’ in the workplace and the role of women in our community whereby equal rights should be enhanced.
Furthermore, Tuilaepa mentioned the significance of enforcing policies whereby couples are prohibited from working together especially in Government Ministries as this is where issues may arise.
Another issue the Opposition Leader highlighted is the inconsistency in translations.
“It is clarified that under Clause 7, section 13, substitute ‘manpower’ with ‘employees’, however in the Samoan version the amendment remains the same ‘Tagata faigaluega’.
He advised that translation should be consistent to avoid confusion.
Tuileapa also advised the Ministry to re-adjust wages for casual employees to make sure that there is a solid balance between the wage earners and the permanent workers so that other business people and companies are not affected as they also contribute to our economy.