Variance Processes

A variance is a temporary exception to the normal work restrictions for youth under 18. There are four different variances available to employers in Washington, depending on the employer’s specific needs.

Employers can request a variance for minors to work:

  • Additional hours.
  • Earlier or later than usually allowed.
  • During school hours.
  • Additional hours as actors or performers in film, video, audio or theatrical productions.
  • In paid worksite learning programs, including registered apprenticeships that have hazardous duties or equipment.

Employers must initiate any request for a variance. Before requesting a variance, an employer must have a minor work permit and evidence of the minor’s age. Employers must also coordinate with the minor’s parent and school (during the school year) to complete a parent/school or summer authorization form. L&I cannot approve variances if they conflict with federal child labor laws.

There are additional requirements to hire youth under 14.

Special Variance

This variance is easy to apply for and allows teens enrolled in public or private schools to work additional hours. L&I does not approve special variances. They are granted if the parents, school, and employer agree. Special variances are only available for teens working in non-agricultural jobs.

Purpose

Youth 16-17 years old who are enrolled in public or private school can work up to 6 hours per day and 28 hours per week with parental and school permission. Special variances are not available for home-schooled students.

If an employer wants a teen to work more hours than the special variance allows, or the teen is not enrolled in public or private school, they can apply for a minor work variance.

How to request approval

Both the minor’s school official and their parent or legal guardian must approve the additional hours requested. The school official must consider whether the additional hours will affect the student’s school schedule and academic performance. If a student’s academic performance decreases under an approved special variance, the school can modify or withdraw their approval.

When filling out the required Parent School Authorization form, both the parent and school official must sign the “Optional School Week Special Variance Authorization” section on the last page of the form. If either the school or the parent do not sign the special variance, the teen is not approved to work the additional hours. Employers must keep the signed Parent/School Authorization form on file where the youth works.

How to renew

You can renew a special variance yearly by Sept. 30 when you renew the Parent/School Authorization form.

Minor Work Variance

A minor work variance allows teens to work additional hours beyond what a special variance allows. Minor work variances are available for teens working in agricultural and non-agricultural jobs.

Purpose

Teens 16-17 years old under various circumstances can work additional hours, earlier or later than usually allowed, or work during regular school hours if approved by L&I.

We typically see requests for teens who are:

  • Homeschooled.
  • Taking online classes.
  • Enrolled in an alternative school.
  • Attending school with a flexible schedule.
  • Taking classes toward their GED.
  • Responsible for their own living expenses.

Exceptions

Teens 16-17 years old working non-school week hours do not need a variance to work if they are:

  • Married.
  • A parent.

Additionally for non-agricultural jobs:

  • Are enrolled and taking college courses (e.g. Running Start).
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalency (GED).

Emancipated minors do not have any hours of work restrictions. If any of these exceptions apply, employers should keep a copy of supporting documentation.

How to request approval

Complete and send the Variance Application – Minor Work to L&I for review. The application has details how to submit your request. We may ask you for additional information to support your request.

Variances are usually reviewed within ten business days. Your approved variance will be emailed to you. We will contact you if your variance is denied, or if we need additional information.

How to renew

A minor work variance expires the same date that the employer’s minor work permit expires. To renew this variance, submit a new request when renewing your minor work permit.

Theatrical Variance

A theatrical variance allows minors employed as actors or performers in film, video, audio, or theatrical productions to temporarily work additional hours. This variance can include duties that are normally prohibited for minors. Theatrical variances are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Note: You do not need permission from a superior court for youth under 14 to work in theatrical jobs.

Purpose

Minors employed in theatrical jobs can work additional hours, earlier or later than usually allowed, or work during regular school hours if approved by L&I. Theatrical variances are only valid for minors working in Washington State.

We recommend using the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) guidelines when setting the hours of work for child actors.

How to request approval

Complete and send L&I all of the following documents for review:

Applications should detail the minor's working conditions and planned work schedule, adult supervision of the minor, and any planned educational programs.

L&I can prepare this variance within one business day if all paperwork is fully completed. If we approve your request, a copy of an approved variance will be emailed to you.

Seasonal Group Variance

A seasonal group variance allows a number of teens to temporarily work additional hours during peak business times. Seasonal group variances are available for teens working in agricultural and non-agricultural jobs.

Purpose

Youth 16-17 years old can work additional hours, or later than usually allowed during school and non-school weeks if approved by L&I.

Youth 14-15 years old working in agriculture can work additional hours or earlier or later than usually allowed only during non-school weeks if approved by L&I.

How to request approval

Complete and send the Variance Application – Seasonal Group Minor Work to L&I for review. The employer must list the number of youth needed, the employment start and end dates, and the hours of work they are requesting for peak and off-peak times. We may ask for additional information to support your request.

Note: You must have a minor work permit that is valid for the entire time you request. You can renew up to 60 days before your current minor work permit expires.

For each individual hired under the seasonal group variance, you must have a signed parent/school or summer authorization reflecting the maximum hours of work requested. If L&I approves your request, a copy of the approved variance will be sent to you.

Applications can take up to 10 business days to process.

How to renew

The special group variance expires on your requested expiration date, usually at the end of harvest or summer break. You must submit a new variance request to renew a seasonal group variance.