We’ve all come across a questionable employer at some stage in our lives; whether you’re a domestic or international student, we can all agree it’s a sticky situation to be in. Maybe you’ve been put in a position by an employer that could hurt your visa status, or maybe you’ve fallen prey to the good old lie that an employer can deduct your pay to balance the tills. Both of these circumstances, where employers benefit and you’re left unfairly disadvantaged, are illegal.
We’ve got you and your rights covered though – here’s some helpful tips to assist you in navigating your way through the myths and tales you may hear from employers whilst searching for a job.
The unpaid trial
Unpaid trials are very common across Australia and help employers to evaluate candidates for an advertised job. The trial determines if a person is the right “fit” for the organisation, alongside assessing skills and capabilities; which are necessary to fulfil the role.
But, if there’s a) no supervision during the trial or b) if it continues for a long period of time, then you need to be aware this could be considered work, which the employer deems you fit to complete and you should be paid for this at the appropriate minimum award rate.
Internships and false promises
You should also be wary of outside-of-university work placements and internships advertising the promise of paid work, after having to complete two weeks of unpaid work experience upfront. These are essentially unpaid trials disguised as placements and are illegal under the Fair Work Act.
Some employers have even been known to lure students into unpaid internships with the promise of high salaries, management roles and personal bribes awarded later down the track.
Accepting cash-in-hand payments from an employer for work is not necessarily illegal, though some companies deliberately use cash transactions to avoid meeting their tax and employee responsibilities. All work you complete should be registered with the ATO and a corresponding pay slip should be sent to you. Whether in print or online, it should detail the hours you’ve worked, the pay rate awarded, and the total income earned. The employer also needs to pay a minimum of 9% superannuation to your nominated fund and the appropriate income tax to the government.
Being paid in food, store products or gifts is also not okay and should be reported to Fair Work.
These are legal if agreed to by both yourself and the employer – make sure to have a contract drawn up so you both know what’s been agreed to. That being said, the agreement should be genuine and you shouldn’t be forced into any situation that is illegal or you’re not comfortable in.
Being told by an employer they’ll need to deduct your income to pay for something you broke, or to balance the cash register – are some of the most common situations students often find themselves in. Under Fair Work this is not acceptable and should be reported.
Free assistance from the Fair Work Ombudsman
If you’re having issues at work with your employer, or you’re struggling to find a job because of the absurd positions employers are trying to put you in – then we’d recommend taking a look at the fantastic resources supplied by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). They provide details on all your work rights as international or domestic students and there’s even an app available to download to record the hours you work. Contacting FWO for personal assistance can be done anonymously online, for free and in 30 different languages.