Summer 2024

Child Labor Laws Are Changing: How Could This Impact Workers’ Comp?

Fast Focus

Several states have passed or are attempting to pass laws that will relax existing child labor restrictions. If this trend continues, it could impact employee population demographics, risk for workplace injury, legal concerns when dealing with minors, and approaches to claims and care management involving minors.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. workforce has experienced serious disruption, from the Great Resignation, to Quiet Quitting, and evolving labor policy for gig workers. For the last few years, there has been a significant labor shortage, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics noting that 9.6 million job openings currently sit unfulfilled across the county.1

In the face of this problem, many solutions have been proposed, such as increasing wages to better attract workers, implementing automation or technology to make up for fewer workers, and changing immigration policies to allow for new workers to enter the country – but there is one new proposal that is starting to make news: changing child labor laws.

Over the last couple of years, several states have proposed – and in some cases enacted – laws that reduce age requirements to enter the workforce, as well as expand the types and duration of work that minors can participate in.

If this trend continues and more teen workers enter the workforce, there are some potential impacts to consider related to risk and frequency for workplace injury, as well as care considerations as they relate to these young populations.

The Growing Legislative Trend

Within the last two years, many states enacted laws that impact child labor, while some introduced bills that did not advance. Additionally, two federal bills were introduced, proposing certain changes to child labor laws.


State Name

This is a state in the United States.

Recent Changes to Child Labor Laws


Teens as young as 14 can work in meat coolers, industrial laundries, kitchens, and other environments

Additionally, special work-based learning exceptions allow teens aged 16-17 to work in demolition, roofing, excavation, and power-driven machine operation4


Teenagers aged 16 and older can work in liquor stores7

New Hampshire

Teens as young as 14 can bus tables in alcohol establishments

Teens aged 16-17 can work 35 hours a week, including the night shift10

New Jersey

Teens aged 14-15 can work 40 hours a week during the summer

Teens aged 16-18 can work 50 hours a week in the summer.

In neither scenario do minors require parental consent to work11


Exemptions create for hour and time restrictions for teens 14-15

Removes provisions for hour and time restrictions for teens 16-176


Allows parents to sign consent form, allowing teens 16-17 to work more than 30 hours per week14

Creates educational programs in schools with supervised construction work15


Teenagers aged 14-15 no longer need work permits to get a job18

Recent Proposals
to Child Labor Laws


Teens 16-17 could work more than 40 hours per week, and more than 6.5 hours per day during school week12


Teens aged 16-17 could work in logging operations, if employed by a parent8

Teens aged 14-16 could work between 7:00 AM and 9:00 PM, up to 24 hours a week9

Proposed bills that DID NOT ADVANCE

South Dakota

Individuals under the age of 14 could work in commercial establishments when school is not in session, but no later than 9:00 PM2


Teens aged 16-17 would be able to work in construction3


Teens aged 14-15 would not need work permits or parental permission to get jobs5


Minors would no longer need to obtain work permits to get jobs13


Minors would no longer need to obtain work permits to get jobs16

Teens aged 16-17 could work until 10:00 PM on school nights, instead of 7:00 PM17

Recent Changes to Child Labor Laws
Recent Proposals to Change Child Labor Law
Proposed bills that did not advance

While many of these bills did not advance, other states are considering similar bills in coming legislative sessions, and it is also likely that states that saw their bills fail may simply try again later.

For instance, Wisconsin originally passed a bill in the House and Senate to remove work permit requirements for 14 and 15 year olds, but that bill was vetoed by the governor in 2022 – however, a new bill was introduced towards the end of 2023.19

As labor dynamics continue to drive this legislative trend, it becomes more and more likely that workers’ comp insurers will have to prepare for a greater number of minors among their injured worker claimant populations.

Increasing Reports of Child Labor Violations

Outside of legally sanctioned labor, there have been significant increases in illegal child labor over the last several years, as documented by the Department of Labor:

increase in children employed illegally by companies since 201820


increase in the number of children illegally working over the last decade21

Increased Safety Risks with Minors in the Workplace

Evidence demonstrates that younger workers are more prone to workplace injury, which raises questions and considerations for overall worker population safety impacts as more minors enter the workforce.

According to the CDC, young workers have the highest rates of job-related injury.22 The CDC noted that the rate of work-related injuries treated in emergency departments for workers aged 15-24 was 1.5x greater than the rate for all other age groups.22

Meanwhile, the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found that the risk of accidents is substantially higher at the start of employment, and that the average job tenure prior to an injury for young workers is shorter compared with older workers.23

Reasons Why Younger Workers are More Likely to Get Injured22,24

Limited or no prior work experience

A lack of safety training

Less likely to recognize workplace hazards

Unaware of legal protections

Discomfort voicing safety concerns

May lack the strength or cognitive abilities to perform certain duties

Younger Workers and the Impact to Workers’ Comp

If more minors begin to enter the workforce in significant numbers, increases in the rates of workplace injury are an unfortunate inevitability.

While workers’ comp programs often have strategies in place to manage various special populations, providing care for younger workers comes with some unique differences to account for in terms of legal complexity, indemnity considerations, and medical management.

Legal Considerations

In a typical claim, the injured worker is an adult who can make their own healthcare decisions and communicate with various stakeholders in the workers’ comp system. However, with minors, the severity of the injury can potentially impact how much a parent or guardian of the worker will likely have to be involved in the claim. A minor laceration or burn requiring first aid may require no parental involvement at all, while a more serious injury would require the parents in both the medical treatment and claims process.

If a parent is involved in a claim, adding an extra stakeholder to the mix can complicate communication.

Considering the wealth of information to share – be it explaining benefits, coordinating care, etc. – there is a higher probability for missed information and missed appointments as communication is now handled via an intermediary.

There are various other, case-by-case factors to consider – for instance, if transportation services are required within a claim, additional accommodations must be made for the parent to accompany the child.

Additionally, most states provide minors with additional workers’ comp protection above the standard benefits given to adults.

For instance, in the case of permanent partial disability or permanent total disability, roughly half the country requires that minors be compensated for future earning capacity, a small loss of income per year based on what could be a 40 to 50 year work career.25 The calculations to find this compensation varies, but because minors often fill lower-wage occupations, the calculation assumes minors would have eventually earned beyond those wages, meaning final payment will be high.

Furthermore, a guardian may be required for the settlement of permanent partial disability or permanent total disability. In a handful of states, all settlements with minors must be approved by the state workers’ comp board, industrial commission, or court system.25

Medical Considerations

Providing care for adolescents can vary significantly when compared to adults. Younger individuals may be required to visit pediatricians instead of general practitioners, which would require workers’ comp programs to ensure such providers are part of their network. It would also be necessary to make sure pediatricians understand the workers’ comp system, in regards to matters such as coverage, prior authorizations, etc.

And when it comes to pharmacy management, adolescents may not be able to take the same medications that adults can. Drugs intended or approved for adults may not adequately be studied in pediatric populations of different ages, and difficulty measuring outcome measures may be difficult in younger populations.26

Additionally, children can progress rapidly through different stages of development when compared to adults, making pharmacotherapy far more nuanced when compared to adults who have completed their development. In some cases, introducing certain drugs during key developmental stages in life can cause significant long-term health impacts.26

If more minors are allowed to enter the workforce, particularly in more risk-filled fields, it is to be expected that claims populations – and their management – may continue to grow more complex in workers’ comp.

Preparing Workplaces for Higher Youth Populations

If given work environments see an increase in adolescent workers, it is important to emphasize safety training and to mitigate risks by putting these younger workers in less potentially hazardous positions.

The U.S Department of Labor recommends the following seven recommendations to keep younger workers safe:27

Verify ages of young employees
Ensure managers are trained on the child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act
Tell minor employees what tasks they can’t perform and how long they can work each day
Review time records for minors
Post warning labels on prohibited equipment
Train new workers on job hazards and safety precautions
Encourage new workers to speak up about safety concerns


  1. Job opening and labor turnover summary. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jan 3, 2024.
  2. South Dakota House Bill 1180. South Dakota Legislature. 2023.
  3. Minnesota Senate File 375. Minnesota Legislature. 2023.
  4. Iowa Senate Bill 542. Iowa Legislature. May 26, 2023.
  5. Wisconsin Senate Bill 332. Wisconsin State Legislature. 2022.
  6. Michigan House Bill 5696 (2022). Michigan Legislature. 2022.
  7. Indiana House Bill 1093. Indiana General Assembly. – 2024 Session.
  8. S.671 – Future logging careers act. 118th Congress (2023-2024). 2023.
  9. H.R. 8826 – Teenagers earning everyday necessary skills act. 117th Congress (2021-2022). 2022.
  10. New Hampshire Senate Bill 345. New Hampshire General Court. 2022.
  11. New Jersey Bil A4222 – Session 2022-2023. New Jersey Legislature. 2023.
  12. Kentucky House Bill 255. Kentucky General Assembly – 2024 Regular Session.
  13. Georgia House Bill 501. Georgia General Assembly. 2023.
  14. Florida House Bill 49. Florida Senate. 2024.
  15. Florida House Bill 917. Florida Senate. 2024.
  16. Missouri Senate Bill 175. Missouri Senate. 2023.0
  17. Missouri House Bill 960. Missouri House of Representatives. 2023.
  18. Arkansas House Bill 1410 – to revise the child labor laws; and to create the “youth hiring act of 2023”. Arkansas State Legislature. 2023.
  19. Wisconsin Assembly Bill 442. Wisconsin State Legislature. 2023.
  20. Departments of labor, health and human services announce new efforts to combat exploitative child labor. U.S. Department of Labor. Feb 27, 2023.
  21. Child labor. U.S. Department of Labor. 2023.
  22. Young worker safety and health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last reviewed Oct 20, 2023.
  23. Negrusa S. Changes in the workforce and their impact on workers’ compensation outcomes. Aug 31, 2023.
  24. Guerin RJ, Reichard AA, Derk S, et al. Nonfatal occupational injuries to younger workers — United States, 2012–2018. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sept 4, 2020.
  25. Shafer R. Hiring youth: minors and workers’ compensation. Workers comp resource center. Dec 14, 2010.
  26. Stephenson T. How children's responses to drugs differ from adults. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2005 Jun;59(6):670-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2005.02445.x. PMID: 15948930; PMCID: PMC1884865.
  27. Trimble C. 7 ways employers can help keep young workers safe. U.S. Department of Labor. July 1, 2021.


Since 2010, the semi-annual RxInformer clinical journal has been a trusted source of timely information and guidance for workers’ comp payers on how best to manage the care of injured worker claimants and plan for the challenges that lay ahead. The publication is an important part of Healthesystems’ proactive approach to advocating for quality care of injured workers while managing the costs associated with treatment.