What is the minimum legal age for working in Singapore?
Generally, a child must be at least 13 years of age before he can start working. The minimum legal age for working in Singapore is governed by the Employment Act and the Employment (Children and Young Persons) Regulations, and is enforced by the Ministry of Manpower.
Under the Employment Act, particularly Part VIII, several rules are applicable.
- A child who is 13 or above can engage in light work in a non-industrial setting. For instance, this may include serving drinks, or cleaning, in a cafeteria.
- A child who is 13 or above may work in an industrial setting in which only members of the same family are employed.
- The above impliedly means that children under 15 generally are not allowed to work in industrial environments, or engage in heavy work. Young persons under 16 may be subject to further rules pronounced by the Ministry of Manpower.
- The Act also empowers the Minister of Manpower to prescribe minimum wages applicable to young workers, as well as prohibit young persons under 16 from working in certain industrial settings. If you are an employer, especially one in the business of industries involving dangerous chemicals or hazardous environments, you should first make an inquiry with the Ministry of Manpower before attempting to hire young workers.
- Offenders such as an employer who engages the services of such children, in violation of the laws of the Employment Act, are liable for fines and imprisonment. Moreover, a parent who knowingly or negligently, instructs or allows his or her child to gain employment in such conditions prohibited by the Employment Act, is also liable for the same punishment.
Employment (Children and Young Persons) Regulations:
- Young persons above 15 may work in an industrial environment. However, the employer must inform the Commissioner of Labour within 30 days of his employment, and submit a medical certificate certifying his fitness for work.
- Young persons under 16 cannot be employed as workmen during the night, from 11pm to 6am. According to the Employment Act, workmen include roles involving manual labour and the operation of mechanically propelled vehicles.
- Children under 15 who are still attending school may only work 6 hours per day. Young persons between 15 to 16 who are still attending school may only work 7 hours per day. The exception is where the abovementioned are working in government approved apprenticeships, such as certain opportunities found within ITEs.
- Generally, persons under 16 are not allowed to work in employment involving possibly injurious conditions, employment on vessels, the operation of machinery and electrical apparatuses, as well as underground work. For more information, do refer to the Regulations itself.
Generally speaking, a person who is above the age of 16 is not a child or a young person, and is considered an adult worker.
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