A Bright cafe has been fined $5,000 in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to nine breaches of the Child Employment Act 2003.

The charges were detailed in the latest matter filed by Wage Inspectorate Victoria, against Schultz & Associates Pty Ltd, trading in Bright as The Riverdeck Kitchen, for employing two children under the age of 15 without a permit between April and August 2021.

In Victoria, employers require a permit before a child under 15 years of age can be employed, unless an exemption applies, such as for children employed in family businesses. When a business fails to apply for a permit, the Wage Inspectorate’s responsibility to ensure children are working in safe and appropriate environments is impeded.

The Wage Inspectorate began investigating The Riverdeck Kitchen after receiving intelligence that included a tip-off from a member of the public. The investigation found the business was aware in mid-2021 that it required permits for two children it employed, but that that it did not apply for permits until after it was contacted by the Wage Inspectorate a month later.

In sentencing, Magistrate Reynolds decided not to impose a conviction, noting the business’s cooperation with the investigation, its early admission and plea, and the good character of the owners.

His Honour said the fine would have been $15,000 had it not been for the accused’s guilty plea.

The Commissioner of the Wage Inspectorate, Robert Hortle said, “This is a cautionary tale for any business that overlooks child employment laws. The safety of kids in the workplace is paramount, not something that can be delayed or ignored.”

“All workplaces have risks, and these are magnified for young, inexperienced employees, so speak with the Wage Inspectorate to get the information you need to create a safe workplace for them.”

The shortage of hospitality staff in the Daylesford/Hepburn area may encourage some businesses to employ younger staff. Employers should ensure that they comply with regulations around younger workers.

For more information see the Wage Inspectorate Victorial website.