Sell ​​Timbits at 12

Sell ​​Timbits at 12 |

The debate was reignited last weekend by a photo posted on Twitter of a smiling boy handing two coffees to a customer in Tim Horton’s drive-thru. I almost forgot: The boy is 12 years old. He is one of those pre-teens who are more present on the labor market due to the labor shortage.

Posted at 9:00 am


From what age does it make sense to start working during the school year? On the one hand, there are those who remember that they worked from a young age and that it gave them a desire for independence and autonomy. On the other hand, there are those who think that by the time you’re 12, you should resign yourself to being a kid and concentrate on your studies without becoming a cog in the market economy.

We can weigh the arguments for and against preadolescent work, but one thing remains: Quebec appears to be a distinct society in this area. Quebec is the only Canadian province that does not have a legal minimum age for child labor. In no other province could a 12-year-old serve coffee in a Tim Hortons.

In October 2021, British Columbia raised the legal working age from 12 – the lowest minimum age in the country – to 16.

Some “lighter” jobs can be done by 14- or 15-year-olds (lifeguards, umpires, instructors or, yes, waiters at a Tim Hortons), but not by teenagers.

In the United States, a federal law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, also prohibits young people under the age of 14 from working except for artistic work (for example, as an actor in a television series), delivering newspapers, babysitting, doing odd jobs in a private home or at being employed by a family business or farm.

In the European Community, you are generally not allowed to employ young people under the age of 15, unless it is light work (14 or 13 in certain exceptional cases).

Is Quebec youth work an exception in the West? Many believe this is a mistake and advocate for stricter surveillance. Liberal MP Marwah Rizqy specifically challenged the CAQ government on the issue in June.

There are, of course, beacons in Quebec. A child under the age of 14 may only work if they have written permission from their parents. Up to the age of 16, a young person must not, during school years, engage in any work or work “disproportionate to his abilities or likely to jeopardize his education or to impair his health or physical or moral development”. . There is, shall we say, a lot of room for interpretation…

Experts agree that a part-time job of less than 15 hours a week won’t interfere with a teenager’s studies. It’s even the opposite. If you work more than 20 hours a week, on the other hand, the effect is exactly the opposite. We have not yet measured the full impact on early school leavers working in times of labor shortages. And certainly not those of 11 and 12 year olds.

Why should we stop a child from taking down their screens to earn pocket money? Nobody forces these children to work, some would say. In almost all cases this is correct.

But how do you make sure a 12-year-old boy who works at Tim Hortons doesn’t fall victim to the excesses of a disgruntled or unyielding customer?

We’ve seen some call for dictatorship at the height of health measures because they’ve been asked to wear a mask. And if the boss is too demanding, what reflex does an 11-year-old girl have to assert her rights?

The work is not without health risks, both physical and mental. The number of injuries (such as burns) to workers under the age of 16 rose from 85 to 203 between 2018 and 2021, according to the work of the Commission on Standards, Fairness, Health and Safety (CNESST). Among the employees injured in recent years, some were as young as 11 years old.

With such a lax legal framework, how can we protect ourselves from abuse of all kinds? In 2022, it seems incomprehensible to me that the work of young people in Quebec is among the least regulated in the industrialized countries. We are no longer in the age of the industrial revolution.

We’re not talking about tweens mowing the lawn or babysitting. We’re talking about girls and boys working in shops after school for minimum wage. We just decided you can’t vote at 16. But they can sell timbits at 12. That says a lot about our priorities and our societal choices.