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Banning child labour: are children allowed to help us?

Do your children help you in the household and sometimes get a reward for their help? When is helping parents or other relatives desirable and okay, and when is it okay to cross the line into prohibited child labour? We will explain the difference in the following text.

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Mrs. Jarmila contacted the office of the Accessible Advocate. She had what she thought was a charitable idea: she wanted to help a twelve-year-old girl whose family was in great financial difficulty. The girl’s mother was unemployed and her father had died. Mrs. Jarmila wanted to help the girl by offering to run small errands and help around the house for a fee. However, she was not sure whether and how such help could be arranged.

The law prohibits child labour

The basic premise, which applies in the Czech environment, is that dependent child labour is explicitly prohibited by the Civil Code. prohibited. In this context, the law refers to dependent work of children under 15 years of age, or even older children who have not yet completed compulsory schooling.

Dependent work is characterised primarily by a relationship of superiority and subordination, similar to that of employer-employee relations, and is remunerated with a wage or other form of remuneration for work. Other attributes are regular working hours and the performance of work at the employer’s expense and responsibility.

You might argue that child actors in a film or advertisement also follow the instructions of the director, arrive on the ‘set’ at the prescribed time and are paid for their performance. But the law specifically exempts precisely such activities from the prohibition of child labor. The prohibition therefore does not apply to artistic, cultural, advertising or sporting activities. However, the law also provides for certain restrictions. Such activity should be appropriate to the age of the child, should not be dangerous to the child, should not hinder their education or school attendance and should not harm their health, physical, mental or moral development. Moreover, the performance of such activities is subject to the approval of the regional branch of the Labour Office.

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Can children help us at home?

If we regularly require a child to do a certain activity, we need to consider whether it falls within the characteristics of a prohibited activity or dependent work mentioned above.

The legal prohibition of child labour is certainly not intended to ensure that children under the age of 15 or 18 do not lift a finger at home and merely tap the relevant Civil Code provision when asked to clear the dishwasher. On the contrary: Parental help is desirable to a normal extent. In these cases, however, the work will be small, occasional and usually free of charge, in a situation where each member of the household contributes in a similar way, according to his or her ability, capacity and age.

Gainful employment with the approval of the court

The law also allows for the option of gainful employment for minors, with the consent of the legal guardian and then the court, but even this option is not intended to allow 10-year-olds to work in textile factories, but to allow, for example, a 17-year-old computer programmer to start his own “bussiness” and start a business.

Using the help of neighbourhood children

If we want the help of the neighbour’s children, we are already on thin ice. What will or will not be prohibited in this case must be inferred from the specific situation and its course.

Let us give some examples:

If an eighty-year-old neighbor breaks her leg and we send our child twice to do a little grocery shopping, for which the neighbor gives them a chocolate or a twenty-crown piece, we can remain calm. No one is going to arrest us or the neighbor.

But if the neighbour next door runs an antiquarian bookshop and needs help unpacking, sorting and cataloguing books every weekday evening, and offers our fourteen-year-old son a hundred crowns an hour, then we should take heed. We can tell ourselves that he will learn something interesting and the work won’t hurt him. Even our son himself may lose his part-time job because he is saving up for a new computer game. However, from the point of view of the law, this activity is already over the line and the neighbour should find an older temporary worker with a school-leaving certificate.

Tip: What if your adult child has turned their back on you, is ungrateful, or even hurts you with their behaviour? How can you legally address such a situation? One option is to disinherit the offspring or revoke the gift you have already given him or her. However, it is not that simple. Under what conditions disinheritance or revocation of a gift is possible, you can find out in this article.

Example from practice

In the example we consulted, Mrs Jarmila wanted to offer a twelve-year-old girl financial help in exchange for a small amount of help in her home, which she needed after an illness. In practice, she imagined the help as regular shopping, minor cleaning, taking out the bins or washing the dishes. In total, about an hour a day.

We stressed to Mrs Jarmila that in this case the child was not living with her and in any case it would not be a desirable contribution to a shared household.

Nor would it be exceptional, occasional neighbourly help, which would also not be covered by the ban.

Mrs Jarmila argued that in this way the girl could gain the necessary practice for life and a future profession. However, such an argument does not hold water either. The education system, whether through primary, secondary, higher vocational or other schools, is primarily intended to prepare children for their future profession. Secondary education can, under precisely defined conditions, include apprenticeships, where children learn to develop not only theoretically but also practically in a particular trade. In such cases, however, it is part of education. For younger children in primary school, similar activities such as basic cooking or basic workshop work may also be encountered on occasion. However, this is not work that would be of any benefit to the ’employer’, in this case the school, and the results of which would, for example, be sold or otherwise profited from.

We accepted that, in theory, Ms Jarmila could offer the girl, in her words, “to get some experience”, but in that case the offer must not meet any of the attributes of dependent work. It would therefore have to be carried out without remuneration, it must not be carried out in a regime of superiority and subordination and the child’s activity must not bring Mrs Jarmila any profit or benefits (which cleaning and shopping undoubtedly do). Moreover, it would be desirable to obtain the consent of the parents to the activity and to enter into a contract with them on the terms of such assistance. Even in such a case, it cannot be guaranteed that a possible inspection by the Labour Inspectorate would not assess such activity as illegal child labour.

However, this hypothetical option was radically at odds with Mrs Jarmila’s idea, which, on the contrary, was in every respect directed towards dependent child labour. So, unfortunately, we concluded our legal advice with the suggestion that she should find an older job and help her family in distress in other ways. Alternatively, she should try to approach the mother of the girl or other elderly relatives with an offer.

Tip: The loss of one or both parents at a young age is always tragic, but the loss of a parent too soon is usually accompanied by a significant financial loss. Today we look at who can receive an orphan’s pension, how long it is paid for and how to apply for it.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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