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News from young workers

5 Most Common School Visit Questions

I’m an Outreach Organiser. I spend a lot of my week out on the road visiting high schools, TAFEs, and youth groups letting young people know about their rights at work.

There are a few facts that never fail to surprise the students I present to. Here are the top 5 workplace issues young people raise with me after hearing about how they should be getting treated at work:

1. I never got a contract when I started work

If you never got a contract when you started, or have lost your copy of it, it’s a good idea to ask your boss for a copy. Your contract will outline all of your rights and entitlements within the workplace, and it may reveal anything dodgy that is going on in your workplace including whether you’re getting paid less than the Award rate (as dictated by law).

If your contract is really old (for example, dated back to 2007, when then PM John Howard had brought in a bunch of anti-worker legislation known as “Workchoices”), it is likely that the legal Award rate has since overtaken the amount you’re getting paid. This means that you could be entitled to a pay rise and back-pay for correct wages owed to you. See our previous blog post on Zombie Agreements.

2. I get paid cash-in-hand

Getting paid in cash is okay ONLY if you are given regular pay-slips properly documenting  how much you’re being paid, how many hours you worked in that period, how much tax was taken out of your pay, etc.

If you get paid in cash ‘under the table’ then this is a huge problem. It means you can be charged and prosecuted for not paying or declaring tax for the job, if you are being underpaid then you won’t be able to pursue back-pay, and worst of all – if you’re injured on the job, you won’t be able to pursue workplace compensation as there is no proof you are an employee.

3. I don’t get paid for set up or pack up time

You cannot be asked to come in outside of your rostered hours and not be paid for it. Your workplace is not a charity – you deserve to be paid for the full time you are at work.

It may not seem like an issue worth fighting, but unpaid work really adds up. For example, if you work 3 shifts a week and do 20 minutes unpaid overtime each shift, then you are missing out on a minimum of $920 a year (but most likely much more, depending on the industry you work in.)

4. I don’t get paid any extra on weekends or public holidays

Penalty rates are legally protected and dictated by your Award and by the National Employment Standards. If you work in hospitality, retail, or fast food, you should be getting paid extra on weekends and public holidays.

However, some workplace contracts which have been negotiated by workers (rather than dictated by the Award rates) sacrifice penalty rates in favour of a higher flat-rate across all days. If your contract is unclear or you’re not sure, give the Young Workers Centre a call.

5. I have to pay for my own work clothing / uniform

You should never have to pay for your own work clothing, uniform, or personal protective gear. If you have a uniform, it needs to be provided free of charge.

If you are required to wear clothing from the store you work in, then you must be provided with a yearly allowance in order to buy those clothes – a staff discount is not sufficient, especially since some clothes are out of the price range of retail workers!  


If any of these dodgy practices are happening in your workplace, or you just have an enquiry about your rights, please call the Young Workers Centre on 1800 714 754.

And if you’d like someone from the Young Workers Centre to come out and speak about workplace rights at your school or youth organisation, you can contact me on 9659 3588.