Proposed Changes to Relax Florida’s Child Labor Laws Raise Concerns Among Parents and Advocates

A Florida GOP Legislator last week proposed amending the labor laws to remove the existing restrictions for teenage workers to allow 16 and 17-year-old youth to work night shifts and be allowed to work for more than 8 hours, the New York Post reported last Wednesday.

Rep. Linda Chaney, a representative for southwestern Pinellas County, fronted a bill codenamed HB-49, seeking to change some critical restrictions on child labor, granting minor youth more flexibility on the choice of work shift, and extending their work hour beyond the traditionally stipulated maximum of 8 hours a day and  30 hours a week.

Critical Aspects of Labor Law to be Amended

According to the existing child labor laws, older teens between 16 and 17 years are allowed to work for a maximum of 8 hours per day with a mandatory break of at least 30 minutes after every four consecutive work hours.

Additionally, the law allows senior teens to work a maximum of 6 days and a maximum of 30 hours per week when schools are in session and prohibits children from reporting to work before 6:30 a.m. and working past 11 p.m.

However, with the HB-49 amendments, older teens will be allowed to work just like their colleagues over 18 years old and above by removing the restrictions that have been in place for years.

“Minors 16 and 17 years of age may be employed, permitted or suffered to work the same number of hours as a person 18 or older,” the HB-49 bill reads in part.

The new bill allows minors to pick up a job and work any shift, even beyond 11 p.m. and earlier than 6:30 a.m., regardless of school days.

The Bill Faces Opposition

While HB 49 signals a landmark shift in the labor landscape, child labor advocates and a section of parents have slammed Florida’s initiative, raising concerns about potential negative impacts on young workers’ health and education.

Although supporters of the bill argue that the proposed law will offer young workers and employers flexibility, parents fear minor workers may be subjected to night shifts during school days, especially in industries with irregular shifts.

According to the International Labor Organization, young workers above the minimum age of employment but under the age of 18 are still considered “children” and are “protected by specific restrictions with respect to the types of work that they may do, the hazards to which they may be exposed and the hours that they may work.”

“These restrictions are intended to protect children’s health and safety and reduce their risk of suffering occupational injury and disease. They take into account children’s rapid growth, stage of development, lack of experience, and greater vulnerability to exploitation,” the organization stated in a report titled “Improving the Safety and Health of Young Workers.”

The report also asserts that “Young workers tend to be less able to discern the consequences of their actions and to assess risks associated with various situations and are more susceptible to social and motivational pressures,” adding that such traits “can affect young people’s decision-making and result in risk-taking.”

As such, some personal factors, such as the quest to make more money in a week and live an independent life, coupled with the flexibility of working any shift, may lead minors to overwork without having enough time to rest and refresh, negatively impacting their physical and mental health, as well as the academic performance for those working part-time while also going to school.

READ NEXT: State Superintendent Kicked out of California School Board Meeting For Not Agreeing With Proposed Policy

A Worrying Trend

In the past year, investigations revealed some companies in the United States employed minors under the legal age of 16 to work for them. Typical examples include Hyundai Motors, which employed some children aged 12 to work at their metal stamping plant in Montgomery, Alabama.

In yet another shocking incident, the US Labor Department found that 13-year-old children were employed at a Nebraska slaughterhouse to clean bloody floors and sharp equipment used to process meat with hazardous chemicals, raising even more concerns about the safety and well-being of young workers in Industries.  

The proposal will be presented to the House in the 2024 legislative session. If passed, it will take effect on July 1, 2024, making Florida the fifth state to ease restrictions on child labor, joining Iowa, New Jersey, Arkansas, and New Hampshire.

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This article was produced by TPR Teaching. 

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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