A Port Fairy bakery has been fined $5000 in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after repeatedly breaching child employment laws, which help keep kids under 15 safe in the workplace.
Wage Inspectorate Victoria, the state’s child employment regulator, filed charges against the operators of Cobb’s Bakery in November 2022 alleging breaches of child employment laws, having investigated an anonymous tip-off it received.
Just weeks after the charges were served, the Wage Inspectorate received two more tip-offs, including from a former employee of the bakery, alleging Cobb’s Bakery was continuing to breach the law by employing kids under 15 without permits.
Following an investigation, the Wage Inspectorate laid additional charges.
In December 2023, the operators of Cobb’s Bakery pleaded guilty to:
- 12 charges for employing five children under the age of 15 without a permit – four charges resulting from the first investigation, and eight charges stemming from the second.
- four charges for failing to ensure the children were supervised by someone with a Working with Children Clearance, resulting from the first investigation.
In sentencing, her Honour Magistrate Howe noted that the obligation is on the business to make sure they’re aware of child employment laws, with ignorance being no excuse for doing the wrong thing.
Her Honour stated children often won’t know their rights in the workplace, nor will their parents – it’s up to the employer to make sure they’re kept safe.
Her Honour did not record a conviction, taking into account the bakery’s contribution to the small community and the lack of prior offending.
Acting Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria Lily Dekic said Cobb’s Bakery continued to breach the law after being charged, which shows a blatant disregard for the welfare of kids and the law.
“…and that’s behaviour the Wage Inspectorate won’t stand for,” she said.
“Businesses shouldn’t expect to get away with this type of behaviour. Community members look out for the wellbeing of kids and will tip us off when they see something that’s not right, as we’ve seen in this instance.
“Cobb’s Bakery is the type of business where many kids get their first job, so it’s important they comply with the law and provide a safe environment. Kids don’t have the experience, stamina or judgement of more experienced workers, so they need the employer to consider their welfare.
“This judgment should be a reminder to all businesses thinking about employing kids over the school holidays. Child employment licences are free and easy to apply for, and the Wage Inspectorate is here to help.”
The Wage Inspectorate has taken 11 businesses to court in 2023 over alleged child employment breaches.