Over the summer, the Labor Inspectorate found 42 violations in the working conditions of employees under the age of 18, mostly regarding hours.
The agency conducted checks on 22 employers, mainly in the food and services sectors, and found that half of them had committed violations. The agency issued 10 injunctions, reported uudised.err.ee.
Among the cases, two children, aged 13 and 14, had not obtained the required approval for employment from the Labor Inspectorate. In another case, an employer allowed a 17-year-old to serve alcohol in open containers. In other cases, employees had not been informed, as is required, about the terms of their pay, breaks and hours.
"As in the previous two years, there are still employers who do not understand their legal and moral obligations to protect youths in the work environment and who attempt to evade their responsibilities by signing a contract under the law of obligations," said Labor Inspectorate's head lawyer, Kairit Ehala.
The agency also takes issue with the suspected ongoing abuse of alternative contracts. As opposed to the standard contract of employment, the so-called authorization agreement and contract of services do not guarantee hours, a minimum wage or benefits, and are easier and cheaper to terminate, and allow withholding of pay if work is unsatisfactory. The inspectorate's stance is that such contracts, although common, are not suitable for youths.
Five cases examined involving these types of contracts would have otherwise qualified as employment violations, the agency said.
Authorities got in touch with the parents of three 15 to 17-year-olds to find out if the parents were aware that their children were working under such contracts. Most parents were not bothered by the situation, since their children had been paid the agreed wage, the work was not difficult and working days were generally four to five hours long. However, one parent said that next time a standard contract of employment would be preferred for the child.
"Nevertheless, it is important to stress once more that the Labor Inspectorate does not consider it right to sign a contract that leaves the young person without legal securities provided by law," Ehala said.
Another thing the officials look out for is that employment does not negatively impact a child's development or education, for instance, when a child is too tired from working to adequately participate in school.