How old you have to be to work in BC

Did you know?

From what age can a young person work in British Columbia without needing anyone’s permission?
  • 12
  • 16
  • 18

Entering the workforce is a key milestone in every young person’s life. The rules around how old you have to be to work in BC vary depending on the type of work involved. Learn the key laws affecting young people and work.

What you should know

Employers need permission to hire a child under 16 years old

“Last week, my son Jeremy told me he had a lead on a job. His friend’s older brother works in construction, and he’s offered both of them work. Jeremy only just turned 15, and the idea of him working construction makes me nervous. I gather the employer needs my permission to hire Jeremy. I’ve decided to say no, at least for now.”

– Deborah, Vancouver, BC

Under BC law, a young person age 16 or older can work in the province without needing anyone’s permission.

Children age 14 and 15 can work in jobs that qualify as “light work” (see below), as long as they have written consent of a parent or guardian. To do a job that isn’t considered light work, they need written consent of a parent or guardian and a permit from the Employment Standards Branch, a provincial government office. There are special forms involved, explained below.

Children under age 14 can work only with the written consent of a parent or guardian and a permit from the Employment Standards Branch.

There are exceptions to some of these rules, such as for kids working in the entertainment industry (more on that below).

How the law defines "light work"

Under BC law, light work means work or jobs that aren’t considered harmful to a child’s health or development. Light work includes duties such as:

  • sorting and packaging orders

  • dishwashing

  • some types of yard work, like cutting grass or raking leaves

  • troubleshooting user issues with technology

The law also labels specific jobs as not light work. Examples include:

  • operating machinery or equipment 

  • working at a construction site

  • working with goods or providing services a minor can’t legally purchase or consume

  • working with hazardous chemicals or materials

See the provincial government’s website for the full list.

There are special forms involved

To hire a young person under age 16, an employer needs written consent of the parent or guardian (PDF). The written consent along with proof of the child’s age must be retained by the employer as part of the employment records.

To hire a child under age 14, or a child age 14 or 15 for a job that isn’t light work, an employer needs to complete an application for a child’s employment permit (PDF). The child’s parent or guardian and school authority also complete sections of the application form.

Certain types of work don't require a child's employment permit

Usually, children under age 14 need to get a permit from the Employment Standards Branch to work. As well, those age 14 or 15 need to get a permit for a job that isn’t “light work” (explained above). 

However, the law carves out exceptions to these rules for certain jobs. A child in either of these groups doesn’t need to get a child’s employment permit if:

  • they’ll be working as a camp assistant, assistant coach, referee or umpire, and won’t be performing tasks considered “not light work” 

  • they’re working for a family-owned business and won’t be performing tasks considered not light work

  • they’ll be performing in the entertainment industry (more on this in a moment)

Rules on hours at work and safety at work

Children under age 16 can’t be required to work during school hours. And there are limits on the number of hours they can work in a day or week (see here). 

There are certain health and safety requirements an employer must meet when hiring any worker under age 25. For example, employers must make sure young workers receive proper training and orientation before starting a new job. For details, see the WorkSafeBC website.

Specific rules apply to young people who work as actors, performers or extras

There are special rules for children working in the entertainment industry as actors, performers or extras. These rules reflect that children in these roles may be very young and likely to work during school hours.

Employers need permission

Employers need written consent from a parent or guardian (PDF) to hire a young person as an actor, performer or extra for film, radio, video, TV, theatre, dance, music, opera or circus performances.

To hire a child under the age of four for live entertainment, employers need to complete an application for child's permit of employment (PDF). The child's parent or guardian and school authority also complete sections of the application form.

A supervising adult must be present

One of the child's parents or guardians should be present to supervise the child at all times. If the parent can't be present, an adult (over 19 years old) can be assigned as the child's chaperone.

Hours of work

There are specific limits on hours of work and requirements for breaks, depending on the age of the child. Work hours include time spent doing hair, makeup, wardrobe or fittings.

The Employment Standards Branch provides details here.

  • Reviewed for legal accuracy in October 2021
  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Time to read: 4 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Richard Johnson, Ascent Employment Law

Richard Johnson

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