Platform for Labour Action (PLA)

Ensuring democracy and social justice in the world of work.

A child is any person below the age of 18 years. This is according to the constitution of the Republic of Uganda and reinforced by the employment act and the children’s act.

  • The term child work refers to light activities done by children within their homes under the observation and supervision by their families in an environment free of exploitation.
  • Child work allows children to learn the roles they are expected to take on during adulthood.
  • Activities such as cooking, washing and fetching firewood and water, sweeping, washing clothes and looking after animals are acceptable as a process of learning and a means of transmitting skills from parents to children.

Note: if the above work is excessive and interferes with the child’s development then it is child labour.

This is work which by its nature or the conditions under which it is performed, is hazardous, exploitative and threatens the health, safety, physical growth and mental development of a child.

Where a child below 16 years is employed to do work for payment.

  • Child slavery, debt bondage and serfdom;
  • The sale and trafficking of children for labour;
  • The use of children in armed conflict;
  • Procurement and offering/sale of children for prostitution and pornography.
  • Children working in fishing activities
  • Children in commercial sexual exploitation
  • Children carrying out activities on the streets and in the urban informal sector.
  • Children working on construction sites
  • Children working on farms and agricultural plantations

Child exploitation is the use of a child by a person for one's own advantage to gain benefits at the expense of the child. Examples of child exploitation include using children as sex workers, forcing children to work on the streets, using children as domestic servants.

Legal framework

The constitution of the Republic of Uganda 1995 states that children must be protected from social and economic exploitation. It also forbids the employment of children and forcing children to perform work that is likely to be dangerous or interfere with the children’s education or that is harmful to their health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.

The children's’ act also says that no child shall be employed or engaged in any activity that is harmful to his education mental, physical or moral development. 

The Employment Act 2006

  • Prohibits the employment of children below 12 years in any business, undertaking or workplace.
  • A child under the age of 14 years can only be employed in any business, undertaking or workplace to perform light work carried out under the supervision of an adult aged over 18 years and the work should not affect the child’s education.
  • A person must discontinue employing any child under 14 years after being informed in writing by a labour officer that the work is heavier than light work as required by the employment act
  • A child shall not be employed in any employment or work which is injurious to his/her health, dangerous or hazardous or otherwise unsuitable and an employer shall not continue employing the child after being informed in writing by a labour officer that the work is injurious to such a child’s health, dangerous or hazardous or otherwise unsuitable
  • A child should not be employed between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Any person may complain to a labour officer is he or she considers that a child is being employed against the provisions of the employment act.

  • Every citizen (parent, guardian, and community member) has the duty to protect children against any form of abuse.
  • It is the responsibility of the parent to ensure that children do not join child labour.
  • The constitution also requires the parents to provide basic education to their children.
  • The role of the parents and guardians is to promote responsible parenthood or the upbringing of children.
  • Children have the right to know and are cared for by their parents and protected from violence and neglect.

  • Local councils must safeguard and promote the welfare of the children in their areas or villages. The secretary for children’s affairs is given this responsibility in every local council.
  • The secretary for children affairs has the power to mediate or resolve issues in any situation where the rights of a child being abused.
  • To provide for the safety, welfare, and education of children whose parents, guardians or other persons responsible for bringing up the child do not carry out the duty of providing education and guidance.
  • To provide assistance and accommodation for any child who comes to it after being lost or abandoned or seeking refugee within its area.
  • To report and look for the parent or guardian of any lost or abandoned child in their area. The local government council is required to use all methods including the mass media such as radio.
  • To return the lost or abandoned child to the place where he or she lives.

Labour officer - stop the employment of children by withdrawing and ordering the employers to stop the employment of children

Police – child and family protection unit.

  • The secretary for children’s affairs can file the matter with the village executive court if the person against whom a report on abuse of children rights or refusal to provide basic needs has been made.
  • When the village committee court receives the report, it is required to listen to the complaint and it can give any relief allowed by the law.
  • If the case is against a parent, the committee can also order the parent to sign an agreement with the court agreeing to provide proper care for and guardianship of the child with any or all of the requirements of the child.
  • A person who is not satisfied with the decision of the village executive committee can appeal to the family and children court.

  • The court has the power to hear criminal cases against children and applications relating to the protection and care of children including child exploitation.
  • It must follow informal procedures, which means that the child is questioned informally, not exposed to adversarial procedures.
  • A child also has the right to be represented in this court.
  • It sits in camera, where the public is not allowed to attend court proceedings. The only people who can attend proceedings in this court include parties to the case, their advocates and witnesses and other persons directly concerned with the case.
  • The parents or guardians, probation and welfare officer and any other person whom the court allows to be present.

  • It is the responsibility of any member of the community who has information that a child’s rights are being abused to report this to the local government council.
  • When a member of the community has information that a parent, guardian or person responsible for bringing up a child is able, but refuses to provide the child with enough food, housing, shelter, clothes, medical or education, the community member must report the parent, guardian, or person responsible for bringing up the child.
  • Any person, including a labour union or employer’s organization, can report any person employing a child in work that is not light work.
  • It is, therefore, everyone’s responsibility to report child labour or child exploitation.

Recent publications