The employment of children and young persons in Malaysia is primarily regulated under the Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act 1966 (‘CAYPEA’).
It is noted that the CAYPEA had recently undergone major amendments via the Children and Young Persons (Employment)(Amendment) Act 2019 which comes into operation on 01.02.2019 (‘the 2019 Amendments’) as notified by the Human Resource Minister in the Federal Government Gazette.
It is the purpose of this article to highlight these amendments.
Other than providing for the protection of rights and interests of the ‘child’ and ‘young person’ as employees, CAYPEA also imposes certain prohibitions or obligations on the part of the employers in employing these categories of the employees.
Definition of ‘Child’ and ‘Young Person’
A ‘child’ refers to a person under the age of 15 years old, whereas a ‘young person’ refers to a person who is 15 years old or above but under the age of 18 years old, as seen in Section 1A of the CAYPEA amended by virtue of the 2019 Amendments.
If one ever thought about what is the legal minimum age for employment under the law for a child, the newly inserted Section 2(2A) CAYPEA provides that it shall be not less than 13 years old, provided that only light work is involved.
Light work means any work which is not likely to be harmful to the child’s health, mental, or physical capacity or to prejudice his/her attendance at school.
Employment in which children and young persons may be engaged
As a general rule, children and young persons are prohibited from engaging in hazardous work specified under the newly inserted Fourth Schedule of CAYPEA via the 2019 Amendments, which basically refers to work conducted in a hazardous environment as well as exposing to hazardous machinery.
However, a young person may be engaged in hazardous work with personal supervision if he is working under an apprenticeship contract or undergoing vocational training, as provided under the newly inserted Section 2(1B) CAYPEA via the 2019 Amendments.
A child may be engaged in the following employments:
a) employment involving light work suitable to the child’s capacity in any undertaking carried on by his/her family;
b) employment in any public entertainment, in accordance with the terms and conditions of a license granted in that behalf under this Act;
c) employment requiring a child to perform work approved or sponsored by the Federal Government or the Government of any State and carried on in any school, training institution or training vessel; and
d) employment as an apprentice under a written apprenticeship contract approved by the Director-General of Labour with whom a copy of such contract has been filed.
Whereas, a young person may be engaged in the following employments:-
a) employment involving light work suitable to the young person’s capacity (whether or not the undertaking is carried on by his/her family);
b) employment in any office, shop (including hotels, bars, restaurants, and stalls), godown, factory, workshop, store, boarding house, theatre, cinema, club or association;
c) employment in an industrial undertaking suitable to the young person’s capacity; and
d) employment on any vessel under the personal charge of the young person’s parent or guardian.
Last, there is also a list of employment that children or young persons are strictly not permitted to be engaged in under the newly inserted Fifth Schedule of CAYPEA via the 2019 Amendments.
For examples, such employment includes prostitution, trade of alcoholic beverages and gambling activities.
Number of days of work
No child and the young person shall be required to work for more than 6 days in any period of 7 consecutive days.
Hours of work of children
A ‘child’ in any employment is NOT permitted:-
a) to work in between the period of 8 pm to 7 am except for those who engaged in public entertainment;
b) to work for more than 3 consecutive hours without a period of rest of at least thirty minutes;
c) to work for more than 6 hours in a day or, if the child is attending school, for a period which together with the time he spends attending school, exceeds 7 hours;
d) to commence work on any day without having had a period of not less than 14 consecutive hours free from work.
Hours of work of young persons
Whereas, a ‘young person’ in any employment is NOT permitted:-
a) to work in between the period of 8 pm to 6 am except for those who engaged in public entertainment, agriculture undertaking, or vessel under the personal charge of his/her parent or guardian.
b) to work for more than 4 consecutive hours without a period of rest of at least thirty minutes;
c) to work for more than 7 hours in a day or, if the child is attending school, for a period which together with the time he spends attending school, exceeds 8 hours;
d) to commence work on any day without having had a period of not less than 12 consecutive hours free from work.
The relevant provisions of the Employment Act 1955 and regulations made thereunder
The relevant provisions under the Employment Act 1955 and of any regulations made thereunder shall be applicable to the employment of any child or young person accordingly in the absence of specific provisions under CAYPEA.
Offenses and penalty
Any person contravening the provisions under the CAYPEA shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on conviction to
- imprisonment of not exceeding 2 years or
- to fine not exceeding RM50,000 or
- to both;
and for repeat offenders, shall be liable on conviction to
- imprisonment of not exceeding 5 years or
- to fine not exceeding RM100,000 or
- to both.
It cannot be gainsaid that the 2019 Amendments have the apparent effect of rendering much clarity to many provisions under the existing CAYPEA.
It is said by the legislator that the laws in this area are now further in line with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards of child employment.
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