Employment permits for minors (under age 18)
All teens under 18 years of age must complete a work permit application and get a work permit before starting a new job. Please see the complete summary of the Massachusetts laws regulating child labor, including changes made in 2007, for further information.
With very limited exceptions, minors under the age of 14 may not work. All minors under the age of 18 must complete an employment permit application and get their permit before starting a new job. You can download Youth employment permit application and Youth Permit Process. You can also access these forms in Spanish, Portuguese, and Vietnamese.
For minors who are residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, permits are issued by the superintendent of schools for the municipality in which the minor lives or attends school. If the minor lives outside the Commonwealth, the permit is issued by the superintendent for the community where the minor's job will be located.
Minors must provide the specific employer, work address, and job description to receive a permit.
The child labor law covers minors who are no longer students in the same way as students of the same age.
Teen workers can visit the OSHA website to learn more about their rights and employers responsibilities.
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Youth work permits and employers
Employers must keep original work permits on file at the place of employment as long as the minor works at that location or until the minor reaches the age of 18. If the minor's employment is terminated for any reason, the employer has to return the permit to the superintendent's office within 2 days of the termination. If the employer returns the permit, there is no law that specifies any requirements for maintaining permits.
Usually, most schools keep them on file until the minor turns 18. Permits are valid as long as the minor holds the job or until he or she reaches the age of 18. At that time, the minor no longer needs documentation and the permit and copies may be destroyed.
Minors cannot transfer a permit given for one job to another job. The process must begin again, even if the employer is the same but the work location has changed.
An employer who wishes to use a minor at more than one location must keep a permit on file at each business location. A minor does not have to apply for a new employment permit at the beginning of the school year if they have the same job.
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Parents can help keep teens safer at work
The majority of teens will work at some point before graduating high school, and in Massachusetts, nearly 20% start working for pay as early as middle school. While teens are still living at home, parents and guardians have a unique opportunity to help their children make decisions about jobs.
A recent national telephone survey found that a majority of parents reported helping their teen find job opportunities, apply for jobs, ask questions about work hours and job tasks, and handle difficult issues related to the job (other than issues about safety). Many parents even reported meeting their child’s work supervisor. Despite this level of involvement, not as many parents thought of workplace safety as part of the picture. Only about half the parents surveyed reported helping their teens fill out a work permit (required in Massachusetts), and less than half reported helping their teens learn about their worker rights or youth work restrictions, or get more training for the job.
Massachusetts has many tools available to raise awareness among parents about workplace hazards and to help them understand the laws and regulations in place to protect teens. Some key tips and resources are below.
Teens working in family businesses
Working for parents or relatives in a family business can be an important experience and source of pride for teens and their families alike. Teens contribute to the business while gaining experience needed to potentially manage the business one day or that will help them make choices about future work.
But working for family doesn’t mean a teen is not at risk. Sadly, statistics tell us otherwise. Nationwide, from 1992 through 2000, more than 30% of all fatal injuries to young workers occurred in family businesses. While more common in agriculture, deaths in family businesses can occur in any industry. Two of the 3 teen deaths in Massachusetts between 2005-2009 involved teens working for their dads, one in auto repair, the other in construction.
Parents, like all employers, need to think about what jobs are appropriate for youth and be reminded that their own children need training and supervision, too. Because so many children work on family farms, guidelines have been developed to assist parents in assigning age-appropriate tasks (www.nagcat.org); these guidelines match children’s growth and development with requirements of different farm chores. Though designed for agriculture, the information may be useful.
While the federal child labor laws for non-agricultural industries do not regulate age or hours for teens employed by their parents (the hazardous occupations still apply), the Massachusetts laws do. Families should be reminded that there are no child labor exceptions in Massachusetts for teens working for parents or in family businesses.
For more information on teen worker safety, please contact Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Teens at Work Project: (617) 624-5632 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | www.mass.gov/dph/teensatwork