Employment of children laws in WA - horse riding schools and equestrian centres

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The Children and Community Services Act 2004 (CCS Act) prohibits children under 15 working in horse riding schools and equestrian centres.  These child employment laws apply to all Western Australian employers.  

If you run or manage a business that is a horse riding or equestrian centre you need to know:

  • 15 years old is the youngest a child can work for a business in your industry.
  • a child is considered to be working whether they are paid or not paid for the work they do.
  • ‘volunteer’ work or a child helping around the premises in return for free or discounted riding lessons is illegal if the child is under 15 years old.
  • children aged 15 and over of school age are allowed to work in the equestrian industry only outside of school hours.
  • business owners can face substantial fines for employing children under 15 years of age – up to $24,000 or up to $120,000 for an incorporated employer.

There are exclusions in this industry if the child is working in a family business owned by a relative such as a parent, aunt, uncle or grandparent, or the organisation is a charity or not-for-profit organisation.

There are different child employment laws which apply to other types of businesses. Visit the When children can work page for more information. 

Awareness raising campaign and compliance audit 2018 

In September 2018, the Private Sector Labour Relations Division of the Department of Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety commenced a campaign to promote compliance by horse riding schools and equestrian centre businesses with the child employment laws. Private Sector Labour Relations is responsible for ensuring all businesses in Western Australia comply with the legal requirements regarding when children can work. 

Following the education component of the campaign in September 2018, selected businesses are now being audited by industrial inspectors from Private Sector Labour Relations to ensure that children are not being employed or otherwise engaged in breach of the CCS Act. For the audit, records will need to be provided, that will then be examined by industrial inspectors. 

If any breaches of the CCS Act are identified, business owners will be requested to immediately revise their employment practices to ensure compliance and, depending on the nature of any breaches, Private Sector Labour Relations may conduct an investigation with a view to initiating prosecution action in the Industrial Magistrates Court. 

Frequently asked questions

Do the laws about when children can work apply if I employ my own child or a relative’s child in my business?

No. It is lawful to employ children of any age who are family members or other relatives of the owner of the horse riding school or equestrian centre.

  • family business means a business, trade or occupation carried on by a parent or other relative of the child.
  • parent is a person who had responsibility for the long-term or the day-to-day care, welfare and development of the child.
  • relative of a child is the child’s grandparent, step parent, sibling, uncle or aunt, or cousin.

Can a child under 15 years of age work in my business if I do not pay the child for the work they perform or if the child is paid in kind (i.e. paid in horse riding lessons)?

No. For the purpose of the Children and Community Services Act 2004, the word ‘employ’ includes engaging a child to carry out work for which they do not receive any payment or other reward. Children under 15 years cannot work in a horse riding school or equestrian centre, even if they are not paid, or paid in kind (i.e. paid in horse riding lessons).

Do I need to get parental permission when I employ a child who is 15 or older?

No parental permission is required. However, it is good business practice to obtain parental permission when employing a junior employee and to make sure the parent understands the employment arrangement with the junior employee.

Can children 15 or older work during school hours?

Under the School Education Act 1999 a person must not employ a child of compulsory school age during the hours when the child is required to attend school or otherwise participate in an educational program of a school.  There are certain exceptions where a child can be working, or working and studying, if the child has been exempted from attending school. The school the child attends or the relevant regional education office can be contacted for more information.

What are the penalties for not complying with WA’s laws about when children can work?

The penalties are:

  • employing a child under 15 years of age in a horse riding school or equestrian centre, including for volunteer work – fine of up to $24,000 or up to $120,000 for a body corporate;
  • allowing a child to continue to work if the Department of Communities has issued a notice for the employment to cease – imprisonment for up to 3 years and a fine of up to $36,000 or $180,000 for a body corporate.

I have a 13 year old who comes to our riding school for horse riding lessons. After her lesson we ask her to rub down the horse and take it back to the stable. Is this considered to be working?

If rubbing down the horse and taking it back to the stable is included in the riding lesson and are activities associated with handling and caring for a horse then this is unlikely to be considered working. In this situation there is no employment relationship.

One of our regular students is 14 years old. She has asked if we can offer her a deal where she pays half fees for her riding lessons and makes up the cost by helping out in the stables and teaching the younger children to ride. Is this allowed?

No. This is considered working under the Children and Community Services Act 2004. If a child is engaged in work, whether or not they are paid or receive other rewards (for example, paying a lesser fee for a riding lesson), they are considered to be employed.

I have interviewed a boy who looks really young for a stable hand job, can I  ask the child for proof of his age before I employ him?

Yes. If there is doubt about a child’s age it is in the best interests of the employer to ask for proof, such as a birth certificate.  If an employer allows a child who is under the age of 15 to work in a horse riding school or equestrian centre then, under the Children and Community Services Act 2004, an employer could face fines of up to $24,000 or $120,000 if the employer is a body corporate.

How do I find the correct pay rate for people working in my business?

Two different industrial relations systems operate in WA, the state system and the national fair work system. Which system applies to a particular business or organisation and its employees depends on the type of business arrangement under which the employer operates.

Generally, the state system includes businesses (and their employees) that are:

  • sole traders (e.g. Jane Smith trading as Jane’s Horse Riding School)
  • unincorporated partnerships (e.g. Jane and Bob Smith trading as Jane’s Horse Riding School)
  • unincorporated trust arrangements (Jane and Bob Smith as trustees for Jane’s Horse Riding School)

The national ‘fair work’ system covers Western Australian businesses that are constitutional corporations.  This includes:

  • Pty Ltd businesses that are trading or financial corporations (e.g. Smith Pty Ltd trading as Jane’s Horse Riding School)

National system employers should visit www.fairwork.gov.au for information on pay rates and employment obligations. 

There is no WA award that applies to state system businesses in the horse riding and equestrian centre industry.  Visit the Minimum pay rates for award free employees page or contact Wageline on 1300 655 266 for information on pay rates for state system employees. 

What employment records do I need to keep?

There are different record keeping requirements depending on whether the business is operating in the state industrial relations system or the national industrial relations system.

State industrial relations system

The following Acts contain general employment record keeping requirements for businesses in the state industrial relations system:

  • Industrial Relations Act 1979 – these requirements apply to businesses covered by WA awards
  • Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993 – these requirements apply to businesses in the state industrial relations system who are not covered by a WA award.

It is important to note that employers in the State system are required to record the date of birth of any employee under 21 years of age.

Visit the Record keeping requirements page for more information.

National industrial relations system

The Fair Work Act 2009 contains general record keeping requirements for businesses in the national industrial relations system. These requirements apply to employees covered by the national industrial relations system and by national modern awards and agreements.

Visit www.fairwork.gov.au for more information.

Find out more about  about the laws prohibiting children under 15 working in horse riding schools and equestrian centres.

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