The traditional pre-school paper round is under threat from a European human rights watchdog which claims it may breach a European treaty on social rights.
The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) — part of the Council of Europe, the body overseeing the European Social Charter — also said laws allowing teenagers to work a 35 hour week during the school holidays are too relaxed, putting their “health, moral welfare and development” at risk.
Part-time jobs are a time-honoured way of British children learning the rewards of work while appreciating the need for punctuality and commitment. However, according to the ECSR “allowing children aged 15 years still subject to compulsory education to deliver newspapers from 6am for up to 2 hours per day, 5 days a week before school is not in conformity with the Charter” because it threatens their “attendance, receptiveness and homework”.
Even summer jobs were attacked. The UK’s minimum wage for 16 and 17-year-olds, currently less than £4 per hour, was declared to be too low and “not fair”, and the committee said rules on “light work” were violated when children work in excess of a weekly limit of 30 hours, while others do not get a two week summer holiday free from work.
The committtee said it would investigate the situation in the UK further, The Telegraph reports. However, Conservative MP Peter Bone has suggested they should concentrate on more weighty matters. He said:
“The founding fathers of the Council of Europe did not have in mind paper-rounds when they were talking about human rights. This is the problem with these European-wide bodies: they are so out of touch with the people.
“We should just ignore this piece of advice.”
The report did not limit its criticism of the way Britain raises its children to paper rounds alone. It claimed the UK’s failure to bring in an explicit ban on corporal punishment, allowing parents to smack children for “reasonable chastisement” is contrary to “a wide consensus at both the European and international level among human rights bodies” and breaches the European Social Charter.
For now the 15 person committee is not able directly to enforce laws in Britain, but the report’s authors say that despite the fact the Department for Education said there are “clear rules to protect school age children”, they “expect” the UK to change its ways.