Starting a new job in Australia can be an exciting time.
Still, nobody wants to be exploited, bullied or harassed at work.
Here are some useful questions to ask yourself – and your employer – to help determine whether you may or may not be being treated unfairly.
Know your rights: what is my role?
What will your job responsibilities entail? Will you be a full-time, part-time or casual worker? Your type of employment will affect your entitlements, hours of work and rate of pay, so it’s really important to double-check these details with your employer if you’re ever unsure. Initially, you might also want to discuss things like your pay rate, award rates and working hours, outlining duties and probation periods. Check out the Fair Work Ombudsman’s suggestions.
If you suspect you are being underpaid, it might be worth talking to your boss about higher pay.
However, sometimes just asking isn’t enough.
Stay in the Know: Am I being paid at least the National Minimum Wage?
Be aware of workplace myths. Your new employer might tell you one thing, but the truth may be very different.
Know your facts, you are legally entitled to the National Minimum Wage. If confronted, respectfully – but firmly – know your work rights and where you stand.
A tip – there is no difference between the minimum pay amounts that local and international students should receive. Don’t let anyone (even your new boss!) tell you otherwise – you are always entitled to earn at least the National Minimum Wage or award rate of your industry. In Australia, it is not only unethical but also against the law for an employer to pay you anything less.
Periodically check the current National Minimum Wage. If you’re ever unsure of what you’re entitled to, the Fair Work Ombudsman has some useful resources available online to help you out, including the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Pay and Conditions Tool, the Find My Award form and Pay Guides.
TIP! Being paid in goods, food and drink (‘payment-in-kind’) in the place of wages is not okay. These kind of payments are actually unlawful.
So, are my work hours being rostered correctly? Am I being paid in a lawful manner?
Is your employer keeping proper records? If you work 20 hours per week, are you earning 20 hours wages (as you should be)? Are your hours being accurately rostered?
Being permitted to work only 20 hours work per week during term can be a big challenge. Sadly, there have been instances where dishonest employers have lured international students into secretly breaching their visa conditions to work more hours for a reduced rate of pay, sometimes half the minimum wage (‘half-pay scams’). If dishonest employers convince you to breach your visa, they could try to scare you into compliance by threatening to report you.
Stay strong – in the first place, it’s always best to avoid breaching your visa requirements so you can negotiate work-place arrangements on your own terms without being bullied or harassed. However, it’s never too late to take action. Complaining about unfair work conditions does not equal an automatic breach of your visa conditions, and the Fair Work Ombudsman will assist you with resolving workplace issues and injustices.
Consider making a personal log of your work hours. The Fair Work Ombudsman’s ‘Record My Hours’ application is a fantastic way to log your hours of work, keep rosters and keep track of details about your new job(s). Your logged data is GPS linked, which means any evidence you log (sign ins, etc) can be used to resolve a workplace dispute.
In the end, nobody wants to be exploited at work.
Know your worth – remember, never settle for less than the Minimum Wage. If you are polite but strong, firm and well-informed, you’ll be able to spot the scams and navigate the job market with ease.