- Could a company employ 17-year olds in night shifts to support youth employment if they are on a government defined apprentice program?
Answer: International labour standards generally prohibit engaging workers under 18 years of age to work at night. However, an exception may be made to allow 16 and 17 year olds to undertake night work as part of an apprenticeship programme under the following limited circumstances:
- The apprenticeship programme should be authorized by the competent authority.
- The young person should be granted a rest period of at least thirteen consecutive hours between two working periods.
- Measures should be taken to safeguard and supervise the conditions of the apprenticeship.
- Young people below the age of 16 should never be engaged in night work, even as apprentices.
The provisions are balancing two considerations. On the one hand, young workers whose bodies are still developing are more vulnerable to the potential harm caused by working at night; are at greater risk of accidents; and are more vulnerable to the risks involved in travelling in the dark to the work sight. On the other hand, many jobs require night work; therefore, a complete prohibition against apprenticeships and vocational training opportunities involving night work would deny young people an important opportunity.