Here’s an interesting case spotted in the Times Online last week. Kentish paperboy Myles Bebbington is 15. He was paid £2.50 a day, for half an hour’s work starting at 7am, and was given £2.50 extra if he worked seven days a week.
When the owner of the papershop asked him to start his shift at 6.30am, Myles’s mother complained. Later that day, Myles was allegedly told by the shopowner not to return to work. Myles decided to submit his case to the Ashford tribunal.
Although sympathetic to his siutation, his claim was dismissed because technically he was not employed, and therefore could not have been dismissed. His case has now been taken up by the Children’s Legal Centre, who plan to appeal against the decision.
They want new laws drawn up to protect working children from exploitation. Myles’s case has highlighted the inconsistency and lack of clarity inherent in Britain’s child employment laws, which vary from county to county and have not been properly updated since the 1960s.
After a campaign in 2005, a taskforce recommended a change in the law. It was ignored. Professor Carolyn Hamilton, director of the Children’s Legal Centre, said anyone involved in an occupation or trade for money was employed, and that under-16s could not be self-employed.
The laws on employing children vary considerably round the UK. For example, in Coventry children are not allowed to work until 14, In most other areas they can work at 13.
The Professor said “There is huge opportunity for explotation. Children have no sick pay, no minimum pay and no paid holiday. All of these issues could do with clarification.”
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