Can a Minor Work Behind a Bar and Sell Alcohol?

What was the first real job you ever had? When most people hear that question, they start to think about their early years as a waiter or a bartender. It’s perhaps the most common introduction to work-life you can imagine. Whenever you go to pubs or restaurants, you’re likely to find a few youngsters looking for some extra cash and getting their first taste of the real world. It all seems very natural, but there’s one issue that needs to be addressed – alcohol. The law is usually quite strict when it comes to the topic of minors and liquor and it’s generally accepted that the two should rarely mix. But what happens when they’re not the ones drinking? Surely it’s OK for them to just serve it, right? Well, before you go on a recruiting drive at your local high school, it may be wise to consider the following questions – What is the minimum working age in South Africa? How long can minors work per day? And are they allowed to serve alcohol? Can a Minor Work Behind a Bar and Sell Alcohol?

The Basic Conditions for Employment Act :Regulations: state that minors are prohibited from working in bars, shebeens, pubs, etc., when the establishment’s primary business is to sell alcoholic beverages to the general public, for consumption on the premises. 

It also notes that a child may not work in an area which places at risk their – 

  • Well-being
  • Education
  • Physical or mental health
  • Spiritual, moral or social development
Can a Minor Work Behind a Bar and Sell Alcohol?
Can a Minor Work Behind a Bar and Sell Alcohol?

This point is obviously more vague and subject to interpretation but we should also note that the Liquor Act prohibits minors from – 

  • Producing liquor 
  • Importing liquor 
  • Supplying liquor to any other person

That’s a lot of information to take in and, as you can see, there is a slight deviation between the prohibitions of the Liquor Act and the BCEA. 

That said, when tackling the issue of minors selling alcohol in your establishment, it’s probably wiser to err on the side of caution and avoid such employment altogether.  

Can You Sell Alcohol If You’re Under 18?

Generally speaking, no, you cannot. 

How Long Can 17 Year Olds Work In a Day?

The work hour regulations for 17-year-olds (or any other child worker) are as follows – 

Maximum Daily/Weekly Work Hours for Child Workers

No more than 8 hours on any day
No more than 40 hours per week when they are not enrolled at school
No more than 20 hours per week during a school term (when they are enrolled at school)
No more than 40 hours in a week that falls entirely within school holidays (when they are enrolled at school)
No more than 2 hours on a school day or 4 hours on a school day which is followed by a non-school day (ie, Friday) (when they are enrolled at school)

How Much Do 16-Year-Olds Get Paid Per Hour?

Payment for minors in South Africa works just like payment for any other employee in the same role. 

In other words, they should be paid more or less depending on their specific job and their payment should never dip below the national minimum wage determined for that year or below the minimum wage determined by any sectoral determination or bargaining council agreement

What is the Minimum Wage in South Africa in 2021/2022?

Going into 2022, the national minimum wage has been increased from R21, 69 to R23,19 per ordinary hour worked

Once again, there may be separate minimum wages for those employed in specific sectors. 

Can a Minor Work Behind a Bar and Sell Alcohol?
Can a Minor Work Behind a Bar and Sell Alcohol?

What is the Lowest Salary You Can Pay?

The lowest salary you can pay in South Africa will be established separately for most sectors/industries. If a sectorial mandate has not been established, you will have to pay the national minimum wage which stands at R23,19 per ordinary hour worked in 2022. 

While there may be one or two caveats such as when the employee works on an expanded public works programme, for the most part, you cannot pay less than this minimum, even if an agreement has been made prior.  

It should also be noted that it is illegal to make a minor do piece-work or task work. In other words, you cannot make a minor work for pay which is determined based on the quantity of work done or on the completion of set tasks. 

You can still pay commission or incentive pay to a child worker but only if you are also paying them a minimum or basic wage as established above. 

What is the Minimum Work Age in South Africa?

It is illegal to employ a minor for work when they are less than 15 years of age. Although, once again, it should be noted that it is also illegal to employ older minors in work that is prohibited/inappropriate for their age. 

What Work is Prohibited for Minors in South Africa?

As you might imagine, there are many work prohibitions which apply specifically to children. 

These prohibitions are split into 2 main categories: Prohibited Works and the Worst Forms of Child Labour. 

Although both categories include prohibited works, the latter involves works which include child labour practices as identified by the International Labour Organisation. As such, the penalties for infringements of this nature are generally more severe than others. 

General prohibited work includes, but is not limited to – 

  • Deep-Sea Fishing
  • Meat, poultry, or seafood processing
  • Logging
  • Work in bars/shebeens as noted above
  • Work in casinos or gambling establishments
  • Rock or stone crushing
  • Work in confined spaces 
  • Welding, brazing or soldering 

On the other hand, works which constitute the worst forms of child labour include, but are not limited to –

  • Underground mining
  • The gasification of coal
  • Freediving below depths of 10 metres 
  • Work in which it is reasonably foreseeable that the child will be exposed to physical, psychological or sexual abuse
  • Work in which the actual dry-bulb temperature of the environment is lower than minus 18°C 
  • Work involving the production of brass, bronze, coke, charcoal, aluminium, etc.
What is the Minimum Work Age in South Africa?
What is the Minimum Work Age in South Africa?

In Conclusion – Can a Minor Work in a Bar and Sell Alcohol?

While there is a slight discrepancy between different parts of the law on this issue, it is generally forbidden for minors to work in bars, shebeens, pubs, etc., when the primary business of that establishment is the sale of alcoholic drinks to the general public for on-site consumption. 

Additionally, it is illegal for any child under the age of 15 to be employed for any sort of work. 

While you may find some small workarounds within the legislation, it’s normally a better idea to simply hire employees who are over the age of 18 to work in a bar or pub rather than employing a minor. Beyond the specific regulations against the aforementioned work, minors should also be protected against work in environments which could be detrimental to their health and wellbeing as well to their spiritual, moral or social development. 

Many regulations also exist for the hours that a minor may work. These regulations differ slightly depending on whether or not the minor in question is enrolled or in school. Generally speaking, school-going minors will be allowed to work substantially fewer hours than those who are not enrolled. 

Payment for child workers will be subject to many of the same regulations as any other employee. It is illegal to pay them below the minimum wage established for that sector or (if no sectoral determination or bargaining council agreement exists) below the national minimum wage for 2022 which stands at R23,19 per hour. 

It is also illegal to pay child workers in piece-work or taskwork fashion. In other words, you cannot pay minors in relation to the quantity of work done or based on the completion of tasks. You can still offer incentive pay/commission but only if you are already paying them the minimum wage or more. 

There are also many other prohibited works which minors may not engage in, these include, but are not limited to – 

  • Deep-Sea Fishing
  • Meat, poultry, or seafood processing
  • Logging
  • Rock or stone crushing
  • Work in confined spaces 
  • Freediving below depths of 10 metres 
  • Work in which it is reasonably foreseeable that the child will be exposed to physical, psychological or sexual abuse
  • Underground mining
  • Etc

Some of these works have also been identified as the worst forms of child labour by international decree, and thus, may be subject to harsher penalties for guilty parties than other prohibited works. 

Disclaimer LAW101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Law 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make decisions in line with the South African Governmental Laws currently in place. Although our posts cite the constitution in many instances, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law. Should you require specific legal advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified legal expert.

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