Know your worth — What you deserve as an employee


    By Siya Singh

    High school is a time marked with key milestones for students, but perhaps one of the most important milestones of high school students is getting their first job. 

    While working a job can be an enriching experience for teenagers, it is important to be aware of our rights and legal obligations before entering the workforce. Here are some things to keep in mind when starting a new job: 

    1. Types of Employees

    Before starting work, you should know what type of employment structures exist, and what you are entitled to within each structure. 

    According to Fair Work Ombudsman; 

    Full-time employees and part-time employees (or permanent employees):

    • work regular hours (an average of 38 a week for full-time and less than 38 for part-time)
    • get paid leave, including annual leave and personal (sick and carer’s) leave, under the National Employment Standards (NES)
    • get written notice when their employment ends, or payment instead of notice.

    Casual employees:

    • have accepted an employer’s job offer knowing they aren’t guaranteed ongoing work or regular hours
    • get some leave entitlements under the NES, such as paid family and domestic violence leave
    • don’t get written notice when their employment ends, or payment instead of notice
    • get a higher pay rate for being a casual employee (casual loading) or a specific pay rate for casual employees.

    2. Junior Pay Rates (below 21 years)

    Based on your age and type of work, you are entitled to a certain percentage of the relevant adult pay rate for your occupation unless the award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement doesn’t have junior rates. If that is the case, then you will be paid the same as adult employees. However, most occupations do have an award classification detailing junior pay rates.

    The employee award classification is a classification system used by employers to gauge the level of contribution an employee has to the business, and is awarded certain pay based on their award classification. You should find the award classifications of the jobs you want to work in to know what you are entitled to. 

    You will have to check your employee award classification and then calculate your pay using the Fair Work Ombudsman pay calculator. As of 2023, the award pay rate can sometimes be lower than the National Minimum Wage, so be sure to check both your award classification and junior pay rate before starting work. 

    If you turn older while working somewhere, you may be eligible for more pay, so make sure to let your employer know!

    3. Penalty rates and allowances 

    In most jobs, you will receive extra pay if you work for evenings, weekends, public holidays or overtime work. You might also receive a penalty rate if you do a special type of work, such as laundry, driving vehicles or doing special types of work. Make sure to check with your employer, and on the Fair Work Ombudsman website to see what you are entitled to. 

    Besides extra allowance, you must also receive your regular hourly rate if you attend a training session, or other work-related development organised by your employer, at your workplace. Remember, the only legal form of payment is money. Your employer cannot pay you in food if you work in a food-related occupation, for example. 

    4. Resolving issues

    If you are facing issues within the workplace, such as not being sure if you are receiving your entitlements, you must check the law and talk to your manager. You can check the law by referring to the National Employee Standards and National Minimum Wages. If talking to your employer does not help, put the issue in writing by sending them an email. Following this, you can reach out to a third party to help. This can be through a Fair Work Union or a solicitor. Remember to speak to a trusted adult for their help. 

    More information about being a young employee and your rights can be found on the Fair Work Ombudsman website. Making sure you know what you are entitled to protects yourself, and allows you to create an enjoyable job experience. 

    Our content is a labour of love, crafted by dedicated volunteers who are passionate about the west. We encourage submissions from our community, particularly stories about your own experiences, family history, local issues, your suburb, community events, local history, human interest stories, food, the arts, and environmental matters. Below are articles created by community contributors. You can find their names in the bylines.

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