Directive 94/33/EC - young workers
The aim of this Directive is to lay down minimum requirements for the protection of young people at work.
The directive gives legal definitions for the terms "child", "adolescent", "young person", "light work", "working time" and "rest period".
Member States shall take the necessary measures to prohibit work by children. They shall ensure, under the conditions laid down by this Directive, that the minimum working or employment age is not lower than the minimum age at which compulsory full-time schooling - as imposed by national law - ends or 15 years in any event.
This Directive shall apply to any person under 18 years of age having an employment contract or an employment relationship defined by the law in force in a Member State and/or governed by the law in force in a Member State. Exceptions can be adopted by Member States for occasional work or short-term work, involving domestic service in a private household or work regarded as not being harmful, damaging or dangerous to young people in a family undertaking.
The Directive defines "young people" as people under the age of 18 and "children" as young people under the age of 15 or who are still in full-time compulsory education in accordance with national legislation. Adolescents are young people between the ages of 15 and 18 who are no longer in full-time compulsory education in accordance with national legislation.
Member States may make legislative exceptions for the prohibition of work by children not to apply to children employed for the purposes of cultural, artistic, sporting or advertising activities, subject to prior authorisation by the competent authority in each specific case; to children of at least 14 years of age working under a combined work/training scheme or an in-plant work-experience scheme, provided that such work is done in accordance with the conditions laid down by the competent authority; and to children of at least 14 years of age performing light work. Light work can also be performed by children of 13 years of age for a limited number of hours per week in the case of categories of work determined by national legislation.
'Light work', as defined in the Directive, shall mean all work which, on account of the inherent nature of the tasks which it involves and the particular conditions under which they are performed is not likely to be harmful to the safety, health or development of children, and is not such as to be harmful to their attendance at school, their participation in vocational guidance or training programmes approved by the competent authority or their capacity to benefit from the instruction received.
Employers shall adopt the measures necessary to protect the safety and health of young people, taking particular account of the specific risks which are a consequence of their lack of experience, of absence of awareness of existing or potential risks or of the fact that young people have not yet fully matured. Employers shall implement such measures on the basis of a comprehensive assessment of the hazards to young people in connection with their work according to Art 6/2 of the Directive. The assessment must be made before young people begin work and when there is any major change in working conditions.
The employer shall inform young people and their representatives of possible risks and of all measures adopted concerning their safety and health.
Member States shall prohibit the employment of young people for:
- work which is objectively beyond their physical or psychological capacity;
- work involving harmful exposure to agents which are toxic, carcinogenic, cause heritable genetic damage, or harm to the unborn child or which in any other way chronically affect human health;
- work involving harmful exposure to radiation;
- work involving the risk of accidents which it may be assumed cannot be recognised or avoided by young persons owing to their insufficient attention to safety or lack of experience or training;
- or work in which there is a risk to health from extreme cold or heat, or from noise or vibration.
In addition, the Directive contains provisions relating to working hours, night work, rest periods, annual leave and rest breaks. Each Member State is responsible for defining the necessary measures applicable in the event of infringement of the provisions of this Directive; these measures must be effective and proportionate to the offence.
Annex: Non-exhaustive list of agents, processes and work which are prohibited.
See also further document of the European Commission on that topic: