By Elizabeth Dilts
(Reuters) - New York toughened its child labor laws on Tuesday, increasing protection for young models, offering them snack breaks, study time and other benefits similar to those of child actors.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the new law giving young print and runway models rights - including provisions for future financial security - they had previously not enjoyed in the state.
"Most models begin their career around the age of 13, sacrificing their education, health and financial security to model without the basic protections they deserve," said Senator Diane Savino, a Democrat representing parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn and a co-sponsor of the law.
The law brings models younger than 18 under the protection of the Department of Labor's child labor laws. Prior to this, the Department of Education regulated young models by limiting their working hours but offering little other protection.
Those regulations were "modest" and "rarely enforced," said Sara Ziff, director of the Model Alliance, which lobbied for the legislation. The alliance is a non-profit labor group for models in the American fashion industry.
The new law, announced at a press conference in Soho on Tuesday, requires chaperones for models younger than 16 and on-site pediatric nurses to ensure the models are healthy.
It also stipulates that employers transfer a minimum of 15 percent of gross earnings into a trust account established by the model's parent.
Susan Scafidi, director of Fordham's Fashion Law Institute, said the financial requirement is particularly important because young models may not be capable of managing their income without parental oversight.
"You can't pay your rent with a skirt," Scafidi said, referring to teenage models who often live on their own and are unable to manage their money.
(Reporting By Elizabeth Dilts; editing by Gunna Dickson)