This is significantly different from an adult or an employee who has already reached the age of 13, who can also be entered in the register on the day of commencing work. The employer has the obligation to seek the consent of the legal representative of a minor (any employee aged under 18).
When recruiting a child between the ages of 7 and 12, the following information must be entered in the Self-service of the Labour inspectorate ten working days before the minor commences work:
- consent of the legal representative of the minor;
- working conditions of the minor, including their working time and duties of employment;
- data on the duty to attend school.
We recommend adding a contact person who the inspector could contact if necessary. This will make the procedure smoother.
The employment register is managed by the Tax and Customs Board, which forwards data on registered minors to the Labour Inspectorate. Within ten working days, the labour inspector checks that the work is not prohibited and that the working conditions of the minor comply with the requirements provided by law. The inspector may contact the employer’s representative and ask for additional information. In case of doubt, the inspector has the right to ask the employer:
- the contact details of the minor to make sure the minor wanted to commence work;
- the contact details of the minor’s legal representative to verify consent;
- the date of birth and age of the minor and information on the duty to attend school;
- An explanation of the working conditions, including information on the duration of the employment relationship, working hours, remuneration, place of work, duties, work-related risks, and measures taken to protect the safety and health of minors. In order to ascertain safety, the inspector may ask the employer for a risk analysis of the working environment and the prepared safety instructions.
If ten working days have passed and the inspector has not contacted or notified the refusal, it can be assumed that the inspector has given their consent and the child can be allowed to work.
Detailed rules for recruiting minors can be found on the Working Life Portal.
A young person with little life and work experience needs more guidance and attention than an adult worker. Often, young people take more risks and experiment more, their attention is distracted more quickly and, as a result, they may need more rest breaks, for example.
When assessing the risks already present in the work environment, all these peculiarities must be taken into account. In essence, the employer must carry out an additional risk analysis of the work environment, which would take into account the child or young person commencing work.
The results of monitoring in recent years have shown that the main problem is working and rest time, in which case special requirements related to age are either not known or forgotten. It has also happened that a child goes to prepare the hotel breakfast table early at four in the morning before the start of the school day. This is also not in accordance with the law, because a person under the age of 18 may not work before 6 a.m. and it is certainly not suitable to work just before the start of the school day.
There are sometimes tensions between the child and the employer over the payment of wages. Although children and young people have limited working hours, they must receive the same salary as an adult, i.e. at least 4.86 euros per hour this year. This remuneration cannot be reduced even if the employer later considers the work to be of poor quality. If a child is paid less than the applicable minimum wage for work, they have the right to apply to a labour dispute committee or a court just as adults do.
It is also unsuitable for minors to lift and carry heavy weights, even if they look very mature, because it must not be forgotten that their bodies are still developing and even minor damage to health can progress later and reduce their ability to work. We often see young people who want to do as much as possible and as quickly as possible. In such cases, it is up to the employer to intervene and keep the young person’s enthusiasm under control.
The correct or ergonomic and safe working methods and the variety of duties are certainly important. Exposure to chemicals is also a problem – paints, varnishes, solvents, cleaning agents, etc. Follow the chemical safety data sheet and the list of work prohibited for minors. Even in the case of the simplest plank painting, check whether the paint given for the work is suitable for a child and does not contain strong irritants or carcinogens.
Be very careful with the machines and equipment young workers use – even an ordinary lawn mower is not a suitable tool for a child, even if they do the same work at home with the permission of a parent.
However, it is worth noting that the conclusion of an employment contract and the admission to employment of a minor may be subject to exceptions to the provisions of the regulation on work prohibited to minors if the minor is working as part of a work practice under a vocational training curriculum, and provided that the work is performed under the supervision of an instructor or work environment specialist; and the necessary measures have been taken to ensure the health and safety of the minor.
THE WORK MUST BE:
- Safe for health
- Enable social development and acquisition of education
- Accomplishable for the young person
- Permitted by law
THE WORK MUST NOT:
- exceed the physical or mental abilities of the minor;
- endanger the morality of the minor;
- contain dangers which the minor cannot detect or prevent in time due to lack of experience or training;
- hinder the social development or acquisition of education of the minor;
- endanger the health of the minor due to the nature of the work or risk factors in the work environment.
A MINOR OVER THE AGE OF 13 IS PERMITTED TO PERFORM THE FOLLOWING LIGHT WORK IN PARTICULAR:
- agricultural work, such as planting, weeding, watering, or tilling horticultural or arable crops, harvesting, picking berries or fruit, cleaning vegetables, or preparing them for sale;
- ancillary work performed in trade or service establishments, such as unpacking or shelving goods, attaching price tags or labels, preparing packing materials or packaging, packing small items, distributing advertising samples or advertising material;
- ancillary work performed in catering or accommodation establishments, such as setting tables, cleaning or washing dishes, cleaning premises;
- other works that meet the requirements of section 7 (2) and (4) of the Employment Contracts Act.
A 7–12 YEARS OLD MINOR IS PERMITTED TO DO
- light work in the field of culture, art, sports or advertising, in particular participation in the work of a performing arts institution as a creative worker, modelling.
Is it possible to enter into an authorisation agreement with a child?
The Labour Inspectorate has discovered that although the contract concluded with a child is titled as an authorisation agreement and an entry is made in the employment register as working under another contract under the law of obligations, a closer examination of the nature of the contract reveals that it is a classic employment contract. This means that the child or young person is unequivocally subject to the guidance and control of the adult who has admitted them to work. In general, this is the only way, because a young person has no previous work experience and lacks the knowledge and skills necessary to perform a specific task. Therefore, they cannot provide the service independently, or fulfil the authorisation agreement.
Both an authorisation agreement and an employment contract are legally contracts under the law of obligations, where one party undertakes to do something for the other party. An employment contract is, in essence, a subtype of an authorisation agreement which is regulated by a special law in order to protect the worker who does not have the freedom in their decision to create value. The general principles of private law, which are regulated in Estonia in the General Part of the Civil Code Act, apply to all relations under the law of obligations. This act determines the age from which a person has unrestricted active legal capacity and the time until which, for example, the parents are responsible for them. The young person still has restricted active legal capacity. Restricted active legal capacity means, among other things, a restriction on the right to enter into a transaction, or to enter into an independent contract. Therefore, the contract of a young person under the age of 18 must be approved by the parent or other legal representative.
In the case of an employment contract, it is clear that the employee is subject to the management and control of the employer and the employer's loyalty to the employee includes, among other things, that the employer is obliged to teach and train the employee. In the case of an authorisation agreement, however, the preconditions are different.
The Law of Obligations Act presupposes that the mandatary is a professional in their field who provides the service and performs the contract personally, or is essentially like an undertaking.
In practice, there are situations where it is also possible to enter into an authorisation agreement with a minor. For example, a 16-year-old musician who performs with their instrument. Why not? It can be assumed that in such a situation, the mandator who hired them to perform will not be able to direct the young talent in any way – they will offer the young person the time and place to perform and possibly pay them money. The opportunity to perform is, in itself, the remuneration.
It is also possible to provide a free service on the basis of an authorisation agreement. However, in the case of employment relationships, the law always requires the payment of remuneration.
However, most of the written agreements with minors submitted during the labour inspector’s visit are completely ordinary employment contracts in terms of content. They show
- specific tasks, including, for example, the volume of work (e.g. the minimum amount of berries to be picked during the day);
- fixed work time;
- remuneration for the work performed.
Clarification of the circumstances has often revealed that there is a specific person who teaches the young person how to do the job, provides them with guidance, tools, and personal protective equipment (work gloves), and also checks how the job was done. This means that it is not an authorisation agreement or a contract for services. Instead, it is the most classic employment relationship, or an employment contract – even if nothing is agreed in writing.
In the case of oral agreements, it is also worth noting that the Employment Contracts Act always presupposes an employment relationship when work is performed for which remuneration is usually paid. This is the primary premise on which the labour inspector makes decisions. In the framework of supervision proceedings or misdemeanour proceedings, the labour inspector may assess the nature of the contract and reassess if another agreement under the law of obligations has been entered into between the parties.
Last updated: 02.01.2024