Minors and Youth

This page was last updated on: 2021-03-15

Minimum Age for Employment

The constitution states that children under sixteen years of age are entitled to be protected from economic exploitation or any treatment, work or punishment that is, or is likely to be hazardous; interfere with their education; or be harmful to their health or to their physical, mental or spiritual or social development.

It further guarantees that all persons are entitled to education and that primary education will consist of at least five years of education. Under the Education Act, the compulsory education age is 18 years.

Under the Employment Act, no person under the age of fourteen may employed or work in any public or private agricultural, industrial or non-industrial undertaking or any branch thereof. However, this does not apply to work done in homes, vocational technical schools or other training institutions where the work done in a vocational technical school or other  training institutions is:

  1. approved and supervised by a public authority; or
  2. an integral part of the educational or vocational training programme for which the school or institution is responsible.

Source: §23 & 25 of the Constitution of Malawi 1994; §21 of the Employment Act (No. 6 of 2000), last amended in 2010; §13 of the Education Act 2013

Minimum Age for Hazardous Work

Employment in hazardous work is regulated under the Employment Acct and a 2012 Order. The minimum age for hazardous work is 18 years. No person between the age of fourteen and eighteen years may work or be employed in any occupation or activity that is likely to be

  1. harmful to the health, safety, education, morals or development of such a person; or
  2. prejudicial to his attendance at school or any other vocational or training programme.

Under the Employment (Prohibition of Hazardous Work for Children) Order 2012, a person aged between 14 and 18 must not work for more than 40 hours per week. A person aged below 18 who is enrolled in school may not work for more than twenty hours in a week during the school term, forty hours in any week that falls entirely within school holidays, three hours on any school day which is followed by another school day, and four hours on any school day followed by a non-school day (Friday or last day of the school term).

Night work (18:00 to 05:00) is prohibited for workers under 18 with the exception that a worker aged between 15 to 18, who is not expected to be at school the following day may work between 18:00 and 21:00 if the work is in a restaurant or shop where there is adequate adult supervision and at least one supervisor is of the same sex as the person; or the work is baby sitting or child minding. An employer of such an employee will ensure that the parent or guardian of the person in the night work agrees in writing to such employment.

The employer cannot require or permit a person below the age of eighteen years to work in an environment involving extreme temperatures below six degrees Celsius or above 30 degrees Celsius unless the cold and hot temperature are as a result of natural climatic conditions and adequate measures are taken to protect the person which may include provision of protective equipment, and reasonable work breaks.

A schedule to the Employment (Prohibition of Hazardous Work for Children) Order 2012 lists the occupations where work from minors is prohibited, however in in this case there may be an exception where the person is between the age of 16 and 18, health and safety of that person is fully protected; and the person has received adequate training in performing the activities.

This schedule broadly includes work related to the agricultural sector, industrial sector, entertainment sector, tourism sector and health sector and sets out an exhaustive list of activities that may be prohibited in work related to these sectors.

Lastly, a person under the age of 18 years will only lift weight that is substantially less that that lifted by adult workers of the same sex.

Source: §22 of the Employment Act (No. 6 of 2000), last amended in 2010; Employment (Prohibition of Hazardous Work for Children) Order 2012