Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Employment & Labour, Media & Entertainment

Income protection for child performers key part of Bill 17

The recently passed Bill 17 is the first legislation in the province that expressly addresses child performers and protects a portion of their income, says Toronto entertainment lawyer Bill Northcote.

Northcote, partner with Shibley Righton LLP, says the Protecting Child Performers Act won’t be a big shift for those in the entertainment industry who already follow guidelines and best practices, but it will be a change for those outliers who do not.

For example, the act states: “An employer shall, in accordance with any prescribed requirements, provide time in the work schedule for a child performer who is of compulsory school age to receive tutoring in accordance with the regulations.”

Northcote tells AdvocateDaily.com that providing tutoring to child performers is nothing new for many companies in the entertainment industry.

However, he notes the section on mandatory income protection is an important part of the legislation.

Under the act if a non-unionized child performer earns more than $2,000 on a production or project, the employer is required to remit 25 per cent of those earnings to be held in trust until the child reaches the age of 18. If the child is a member of a trade union or professional association then they can negotiate to hold the funds in trust.

Northcote says this type of provision is something that has long been around in other jurisdictions — most notably, California. The California Child Actor's Bill also known as Coogan Law and now part of the California Family Code and the California Labor Code, was named after child actor Jackie Coogan who sued his mother and former manager for his earnings in the 1930s.

"This income-protection provision is there to protect the child performers who are doing all the work but their parents take the money,” he says. “I expect that in many cases it could be money well spent but in other cases it could be that the money is used to support the family’s lifestyle but doesn't benefit the child in a direct sense.”    

Bill 17 started as a private member’s bill less than a year ago and was passed unanimously.

“It's unusual that a private member's bill would make it to legislation, especially this quickly,” says Northcote. “This legislation is not political, although that doesn't seem to stop other bills from dying. Some legislation just doesn’t generate a lot of controversy. In this case, I think the bill had quick passage because it is going to protect children. It's a good thing.”

The law will come into force on February 5, 2016.

 

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