Busting Common Workplace Myths

Fair Work Myths

This article is sponsored by Fair Work Ombudsman

It’s coming up to the summer break and it’s a common time for international students to work.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) provides free and confidential information and assistance about your rights at work. You should know that international students have the same rights in the workplace as all other workers in Australia.
Here are some common workplace myths and the FWO’s facts to bust them.

Watch out for:
Myth 1: lengthy unpaid work trials and unpaid work placements and internships are OK for inexperienced young workers looking to get a foot in the door
Fact: Unpaid work trials must only last for as long as needed to demonstrate the skills required for the job. Depending on the nature of the work, this could range from an hour to one shift. Internships or unpaid work placements can be lawfully unpaid when they are part of an approved job training or work experience program or vocational placement and the work is done in accordance with the relevant program or placement. Read more on the FWO’s unpaid trials page.

Myth 2: Employees don’t need to be paid for time spent at meetings or training outside their work hours
Fact: If it is compulsory, then it is work. Employees are entitled to be paid for the time they are required to spend at any meeting or training.

Myth 3: Employees are obliged to buy store produce such as clothing or food
Fact: Employers cannot require staff to purchase store produce. This includes any items for which the worker may receive a staff discount. For example, an employer cannot require workers to purchase clothing stocked in a retail outlet.

Myth 4: Employers can pay young workers as ‘trainees’ or ‘apprentices’
Fact: Employers must negotiate and lodge a registered training contract for an employee to be able to lawfully pay trainee or apprentice rates. An employer cannot pay an employee trainee rates just because they are young or new to the job or because the employer feels like it. Read more about trainees and apprentices.

Myth 5: If a worker has an Australian Business Number (ABN) they are an independent contractor and minimum wages don’t apply.
Fact: Having an ABN does not automatically make a worker an independent contractor. Fair Work inspectors apply tests of fact and law to determine whether a worker’s correct classification is as an independent contractor or an employee. Whether an employer has labelled a worker as a contractor and required them to obtain an ABN may not be relevant. Read more about being an independent contractor.

To help you understand your rights and responsibilities at work, the FWO and the Foundation for Young Australians teamed up to create a series of award-winning videos. You can check them out on the FWO’s YouTube channel.

You can also find more myths and tips for young workers and the Guide to Starting a New Job on the FWO’s website.
Remember, the FWO is here to help!