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Working in Australia: Understanding your rights

Worker’s rights have been a chief topic of conversation in recent weeks following allegations that fast food giant Domino’s Pizza has been exploiting staff, namely international students and recent immigrants.

The pizza franchise – the largest in Australia with around 14,000 employees across 600 outlets – has been accused of underpaying workers and the effect has been more significant than bad PR. In light of Domino’s admitting that 22 franchisees had exited due to underpayment concerns following 102 store audits, the company’s share price dropped by 14 per cent.

It isn’t the first case of its kind to hit the headlines in Australia, with 7-Eleven at the centre of a similar controversy over the last 12 months. According to a Sydney Morning Herald report, “the lot of the average 7-Eleven worker in Australia is as simple as it is bleak: you get paid half the $24.50 an hour reward rate – or less – and if you complain your boss threatens you with deportation.”

Throw in the recent Federal Government crackdown on 457 skilled worker visas at fast food franchises like McDonalds and it’s clear to see there is a pattern emerging; the exploitation of people from overseas.

Consequently, it is now more important than ever for international students entering Australia for the first time to know exactly what their rights are when working in Australia.

Cash out

It is against the law to pay ‘cash in hand’, a practice often used as a form of incentive given the immediate, tangible nature of the transaction. It is the employer’s obligation to ensure you are being taxed at the correct rate and that this money is going to the right place. You should be issued a payslip detailing the exact figures. Regardless of what work you are doing, check with the Fair Work Commission to make sure you are being adequately remunerated.

Trial and error

Employers may ask you to do some unpaid trial work to see if you’re a good fit for the role. Unless this is in a volunteer or work experience capacity, consider whether you are willing to give up your time for nothing when, realistically, you should be getting paid.

Read carefully

Never sign anything without reading it thoroughly. Going through a contract cover to cover might seem trivial but it’ll be worth the time and effort to avoid being unfairly treated. If you are unsure about any details in your paperwork, ask your prospective employer to clarify or consult a friend for advice.

Source : Studies in Australia

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