Welcome to Australia

Congratulations and welcome to work in Australia!

Studying in Australia will open the door to great opportunities to receive a world-class education and to live new experiences, but you should know your workplace rights.

Everyone who works in Australia is protected against unfair treatment and is entitled to minimum pay and working conditions.

As an international student, you will be able to work and support yourself as you study, but if you experience trouble it’s important to know that there is a union here to help.

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Check out below for some simple tips to remember.

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Case study

Bharat Khanna
International student and former 7/11 worker

Australia is a great country, and as an international student, I have enjoyed the lifestyle and opportunities here for more than 2 years.

A lot of people come to Australia to study and work, but if you don’t know your rights, you might end up in a bad situation like me - being underpaid and working long hours. I don’t want other students to go through what I did.

10 things you should know

about working in Australia

1. If you’re on a student visa, you are only allowed to work 40 hours per fortnight when your course is in session. During break periods you may work unlimited hours.

While you are able to work while you study to support yourself, your study needs to be the priority, and working 20 hours a week will ensure that you get enough time to earn money and learn.

Your employer cannot roster you to work more than 40 hours per fortnight. After exams, and before the start of a new semester, you are free to work as many hours as you like during your breaks.

2. You should receive a pay slip listing your hours, wages, and any tax paid to the government – even if you get paid in cash.

Your employer is required to give you a pay slip the day after you get paid, which must be at least once a month.

This slip will tell you how much you got paid, your hourly rate, whether you paid any tax to the government, and whether your employer paid you superannuation.

You should check that the amount on the slip is the same as you receive in your bank account, or cash in hand.

You must receive a pay slip even if your employer pays you in cash. A pay slip will give you protections and recourse if you think you are being underpaid.

3. You are entitled to a minimum wage.

There are laws that require workers to be paid at least $17.29 per hour, or $656.90 per week, depending on where you work. To find out more about your workplace award, go to: https://www.fwc.gov.au/awards-and-agreements/awards/find-award

4. You are entitled to extra money if you work nights, weekends or public holidays.

If you are rostered on for late nights, or over the weekend, you should receive penalty rates to make up for the inconvenience of working those hours.

Penalty rates will mean that every hour you work, you will receive 1.5x or 2x the usual amount.

If you usually earn $17.29 per hour, working on a Saturday will mean you get paid 1.5x as much per hour, or $25.90.

5. You must obtain a Tax File Number to be able to work.

Your tax file number is your personal number that tells the government that it is you who is earning the money, and how much you need to pay in tax.

You can apply for a TFN at: https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Tax-file-number/Apply-for-a-TFN/

6. Your employer cannot force you onto an individual contract.

When you are offered a job, your employer should tell you whether you will be employed on the award, as part of an enterprise agreement, or under an individual contract.

Awards and enterprise agreements will provide better wages and conditions for workers as they are approved by the government and meet minimum standards.

On an individual contract, bosses can write their own wages and conditions for their employees, which can be lower than award wages.

You do not have to sign an individual contract. You can request to be employed on an award, or and enterprise agreement.

7. You cannot work until you have commenced your course.

If you arrive in Australia before the beginning of your course, you must remember that you cannot work until the first week of study.

Plan ahead so you can support yourself before the start of semester without having to work.

If you begin working when you aren’t supposed to, you could get in trouble from the government and face penalties.

8. Your employer can’t deduct money from your pay for breakages or if your cash register is short, and they can’t pay you in goods or services.

If your cash register comes up short, or if a customer breaks items in the store, your employer is not allowed to take money from your pay to cover the costs.

Australian employers can only pay workers with cash, or via bank transfer. You shouldn’t accept payment in food, accommodation, or any other goods.

9. If you earn more than $450 per month your employer must pay superannuation.

Superannuation is Australia’s way to ensure that all people have enough money to support themselves when they retire.

If you earn more than $450 per month, your employer should be paying at least 9% of that into a dedicated savings account. This is on top of your wages. If you leave the country after studying, you can take this money with you, but it will be taxed.

10. You are allowed to join your union.

Unions provide support and advice when you have issues at work. If you feel you are being mistreated, or paid less than what you should be, unions will fight to protect your rights, pay, and conditions at work.

Employers cannot stop you from joining a union.

If you work in the retail or fast food industry, you can join the SDA. If you work in the cleaning, hospitality, or aged care industry, you can join United Voice.

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Sign up to stay informed and learn more about your rights while working in Australia

For more information, call:

131 732

Free, confidential, advice and assistance.