Do You Know Your Workplace Rights?
On average, Australia hosts over six hundred thousand new international students every year. International students are entitled to work 20 hours per week while studying but, while most employers follow the law, exploitation is still a problem.
International students are particularly vulnerable to this – but this is not an isolated issue. Australia has strict working conditions. It can be complicated and confusing to learn the ins and outs of your working rights – especially when English isn’t your first language – so here are four tips to take control of your working life.
1) Know your Industry’s minimum pay rate.
In Australia, employers must pay their employees their industry’s minimum wage. Usually employees are also entitled to benefits such as penalty rates, overtime, and night pay. The exact breakdown of how much you have been paid for a pay cycle should be outlined in your payslips. It’s important to hold onto your payslips as these provide a good reference if there are any issues.
Myth: Employers don’t have to provide employees with a payslip for every pay cycle. Legally, they do.
2) Only work the hours you are entitled to work.
It’s important to distinguish what your bracket of employment is – are you full-time, part-time or casual? This will help you determine how many hours you should be working a week. A full-time employee will work around 36 – 38 hours a week – anything less than this and you are not considered full-time.
Part-time employees also have a lot more job stability than casual employees, and are entitled to sick and annual leave. Casual workers –don’t have set hours or the same access to sick or annual leave as part-time or full-time workers but they’re paid a higher hourly rate as compensation.
If you work shifts or just have trouble keeping track of your hours, you can download the Record my Hours app to help you track how many hours you work.
Myth: Employers can have their international employee’s visa cancelled. They can’t.
3) Don’t be scared to take leave – you’ve earned it.
No matter what position you’re in, you’re always entitled to take leave – whether paid or unpaid. For full and part-time workers, both annual and sick leave begins accruing from the time you start working. This is paid leave that employers must pay their employers given that the correct requirements are met.
Full and part-time employees are also entitled to take unpaid and holiday leave. Casual employees on the other hand have limited leave entitlements. However, they still have them. Casual employees are entitled to unpaid leave in the form of carer’s and compassionate leave.
Myth: Casual employees aren’t entitled to leave.
4) When in doubt – Get a second opinion
It’s always a good idea to know exactly what you’re signing up for – and 99% of the time this will be written in your contract. However, if there is something in your contract that doesn’t seem right – whether it’s your pay rate, hours, or leave – it’s a good idea to try and clarify this with your boss.
If this gets you nowhere, you can also try consulting an advisor or contacting the Fair Work Ombudsman for advice.
Myth: Just because your employer tells you something – it doesn’t mean it’s right.
Fair Work is a government resource that offers information on the working regulations in Australia. Their services include assisting employees in dealing with any unresolved issues in the workplace and supplying employers with the proper information.
If you – however – don’t feel comfortable being identified or singled out, you have the option of speaking out anonymously.
If you’re in need of advice you can contact Fair Work at 13 13 94, or if you’re uncomfortable with explaining in English, you can even access the translating and interpreting service at 13 14 50.
If you just want a bit more info on your ‘workplace rights and responsibilities’ we have a great online line module called just that. It’s fun and informative and you can get to it via Curtin Challenge.