When can you employ children?

When can you employ children?

The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act of 1993 defines a “child” as a person who is under 18 years of age.

When is it legal?

A ‘child worker’ is any child who is employed by or works for an employer and who receives or is entitled receive any remuneration or who works under the direction or supervision of an employer or any other person.

According to Section 2 of the OHS Act, an employer is allowed to employ a child who have reached the age of 15 and clearly states when a child can be employed. It further states that a child who is under 15 years of age or is subject to compulsory schooling in terms of any law or a child who is 15 years of age or older and is not subject to compulsory schooling in any work which is prohibited in terms of any law can’t be employed.

Risk assessment

If an employer then complies with Section 2 of the OHS Act and is allowed to employ a child, there is a further obligation on the employer according to Section 3 of the OHS Act. Section 3 determines that every employer who employs, or provides work to, a child worker should undertake a risk assessment process which must include at least the following;

  • Identifying the risks and hazards to which any child worker may be exposed.
  • Analysing and evaluating the risks and hazards that are identified.
  • Preparing and implementing a documented plan of safe work procedures and a monitoring plan.

If employers utilises child labour and fails to comply with the above, Section 11 of the OHS Act determines that an employer shall be guilty of an offence and, on conviction, shall be liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period of 12 months.

Taking the above into consideration employers should take caution before employing child workers and should make sure that they comply with all the necessary requirements as per the OHS Act.


Ruan Vlok obtained his LLB degree from the University of the Free State and was admitted as an Attorney of the High Court of South Africa in April 2015. He is currently a legal advisor at SEESA Labour and BEE at our Bloemfontein office and has been with SEESA for more than 2 years.



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