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FAQ

 

Question:

Hi, my name is Alex. I’m 14 years old and live on the Central Coast. I want to get a job at a fast food restaurant. Am I old enough to work and, if so, how many hours am I allowed to work?



Answer:

Hi Alex

In NSW, there is no minimum age to start most kinds of casual or part-time work. However, there are some other rules about young people working, like how long you are allowed to work.

  • How old do you have to be to get a job?

In NSW, there is no minimum age to start most kinds of casual or part-time work. This means you're allowed to have an after-school or part-time job at age 14,  as long as the job doesn’t involve door-to-door sales work (going up to someone’s house and selling something).  There are also some rules about working modelling, theatre or entertainment but legally you can get a job in a fast food restaurant when you’re 14.

However, bosses can also set their own minimum age for their workers. You should ask when you apply for the job whether the restaurant has any rules like this.

It will be important for your mum and dad to know that work won’t interfere with your school work. You may want to talk to your parents about how many hours you intend working so that they can be reassured that you’ll be able to balance school, extracurricular activities and work.

  • How many hours are you allowed to work?


While you're under 15, there are some extra rules about the hours you can work. It is against the law for your boss to make you work:

• during school hours;
• more than four hours on a day that you have to go to school;
• after 9pm if you have to go to school the next day (or after 8pm three days in a row if you are going to school the next day);
• more than one shift a day; or
• less than 12 hours after your last shift.

The total amount of time that you spend at work and school in a week cannot be more than 50 hours. You must also get a 10 minute rest break every hour and a 1 hour rest break every 4 hours.


  • Where can you get more information?


For some more information about starting or getting a job, you can have a look at the following website:

* NSW Government Industrial Relations: http://www.youngpeopleatwork.nsw.gov.au/.

* Fair Work Australia: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/EMPLOYMENT/YOUNG-WORKERS/pages/default.aspx


If you have any other questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 25 June 2015.


Question:

Hi, my name is Tim and I live in Tamworth. I am 12 years old. Am I old enough to get a job? 


Answer:

Hi Tim.
You are not too young to get a part-time job, In NSW, there is no minimum age to start most kinds of part-time work. This means you're allowed to have a part-time job. But, while you are under 17, you have to go to school until you finish year 10 or turn 17.  Because of this, you can only work outside of school hours and you can't do work that is going to interfere with your education.

There are also some rules about the hours you can work and type of work you can do while you are under 15.

  • When can you work and what can you do?


At age 12, you are allowed to work part-time as long as:

a) it’s NOT door-to-door sales work (going up to someone’s house and selling something) – you have to be at least 14 and 9 months to do this;
b) it doesn't interfere with your schooling;  and
c) your parents have been given the details of your job by your new boss. 

  • Some tips for finding a job


While the law says that you can have a part-time job when you're 12, bosses can set their own minimum age for their workers. For example, McDonald's only hires workers who are 14 or older. 

We recommend that you and your parents ring and ask at the places that you are interested in working at to see if they will hire someone your age. If so, make sure that you and your parents sit down with them to talk about your pay and your work/school hours so everybody knows what to expect.


If you have any other questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 25 June 2015.

 
 

Question:

Hi, my name is Mila. I am 15 years old and want to apply for a job at a restaurant that serves alcohol. Can I work at the restaurant?




Answer:

Hi Mila.

As a general rule, the law does not allow people under 18 years old to sell, supply or serve alcohol at a cafe.  However, the law does not stop you from working at the restaurant if you're not doing anything related to the service of alcohol .

  • Can you work at the restaurant?

For you to work at the restaurant, you and your boss would need to ensure that you are only doing the parts of the job that are not related to service of alcohol.  This means that you are not to enter the bar area, take alcoholic drink orders from customers, or serve alcoholic drinks to customers. You would be able to take food orders, prepare food and serve meals.

Otherwise, your boss could ask for approval from the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority to let you serve alcohol (but this approval is only granted in limited cases and there are usually strict conditions that apply).

  • What about when you turn 18?


The law says that you can serve and sell alcohol at a restaurant after
(1) you turn 18;  and
(2) you complete a course in Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA). 

The Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing has more information on its website about where you can do the RSA course and what's involved: http://www.olgr.nsw.gov.au/courses_rsa.asp
 

  • Where can you get more information?

If you, your boss or your parents/carers have any more questions, you can call the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority on (02) 9995 0599 or visit their website at: http://www.ilga.nsw.gov.au/  


If you have any other questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 25 June 2015.

Question:

Hi, my name is Anita and I live in Parramatta. I am 20 and work as a receptionist. One of my colleagues is always trying to flirt with me and touch me in inappropriate places. I told my work about it but they haven’t done anything. feel frightened to go back to work. What can I do?




Answer:

Hi Anita,
We are really sorry to hear that this has happened to you. Everyone has the right to feel safe at work. We think it was a good idea to try and solve this problem with your work, and we are sorry they haven’t helped. We have explained some other things you can to below.

  • What can you do?

  1. Make a sexual harassment complaint- You may be able to make a sexual harassment complaint against the colleague who is abusing/harassing you. This is because it is illegal for someone to make any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour towards you if it makes you feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.  There are also laws that say that it is against the law for someone at work to sexually harass another person at work.  You can find out some more information about sexual harassment and making a complaint here: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/sexual-harassment-information-employees 
  2. Report to the police -You may also be able to report the colleague to the police for what he did. However, we encourage you to contact your local Sexual Assault Service (SAS) first (http://www.victimsservices.justice.nsw.gov.au/sexualassault/Pages/sexual_assault_contactus.aspx#NSW). They can help you with counselling, reporting to the police and preparing for any further action that occurs as a result of your complaint.

  • Where can you get legal help?


You can contact Legal Aid NSW for free legal advice, assistance and representation for workers with employment law problems. They have an Employment Law Service which is a specialist service of Legal Aid NSW. You can contact them on 1300 888 529. 
Who can you talk to?

We encourage you to talk to a trusted family member or friend about what has happened.

You can also get free counselling from 1800 RESPECT at any time. 1800 RESPECT specialises in counselling people who have experienced sexual harassment or assault. You can speak to a counsellor over the phone about what has happened by calling 1800 737 732. If you would prefer, you can also chat to a counsellor online at: https://online.nswrapecrisis.com.au/CMS/Client/Chat/NationalClient.aspx?Service=1&Referrer=http://www.1800respect.org.au&Url=http://www.1800respect.org.au 

You can also talk to a trained mental health professional at Beyond Blue about anything that’s bothering you. You can call them on 1300 22 4636 at any time. You can also chat to them online between 3pm and midnight every day. You can find a link to this here: http://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/get-immediate-support  


 If you have any other questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 25 June 2015.
 
 

Question:

Hi, my name is George. I am 13 years old and want to work part time at a fast food place. However, they have a policy that says they don’t hire anyone who is under 14. Is this age discrimination? 





Answer:

Hi George,
It’s great you’re thinking about getting a job!
Even though the law says you can get a job when you’re 13, businesses still have the right to set their own rules regarding the minimum age of employment of people working for them.

Although generally, employers cannot discriminate based on the age of employees or people applying for a job,  both NSW and national law contain exceptions to this where the person is under the age of 21 years old. 

This means it is not considered age discrimination if employers discriminate based on age when offering a job to someone aged under 21. This also applies if an employer has different terms and conditions (like how many hours of work they get) for people who are under 21. 

Also, some jobs have different minimum ages due to health and safety requirements or for other reasons, such as to comply with a different law.  Because of these exceptions it is not age discrimination for a fast food company not to hire anyone under the age of 14.

However, there may be other jobs which will accept 13 year old employees. We recommend trying your local supermarket to see if they have a minimum age requirement. Good luck!
If you have any other questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 25 June 2015.

 
 

Question:

Hi, my name is Charlotte and I’m 20. I work at a supermarket in Maitland. I was  recently sexually harassed by a colleague. When I complained to my work they transferred me to another location which takes longer to get to. However, the colleague who harassed me still gets to work in the same place. I feel like I have been discriminated against. What can I do?




Answer:

Hi Charlotte,
We are so sorry to hear what has happened. Everyone has the right to feel safe at work.

 

What can you do?

  •   Make a discrimination complaint

You may be able to make a complaint that your employer discriminated against you by making you transfer jobs, when they didn’t make the colleague who harassed you move jobs. This is because it is against the law for your employer to disadvantage you because you are a woman.

  •   Make a victimisation complaint


If your employer transferred you because you made a complaint about sexual harassment you may be able to make a complaint of victimisation. This is because it is illegal for someone to punish you or treat you badly because you have complained about discrimination or harassment. 

 

How can you make a complaint?


If you want to make any (or all) of these complaints, you can contact EITHER the Australian Human Rights Commission OR the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW. You cannot make a complaint to both organisations.

You can find more information about how to make a complaint at these websites:



** If you do want to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW then it is best to make the complaint within 12 months of the discriminatory act taking place. This is because both the Commission and the Board may terminate or decline a complaint if it was made more than 12 months after the alleged unlawful discrimination took place.**

 

Another option: general protections breach

Your employer might have also committed what is called a general protections breach. This is a law that tries to help people who have been treated unfairly at work.

It is possible that the supermarket’s decision to transfer you, but not the colleague who harassed you, would be considered unfair under this law.  This would be a general protections breach. If you want to make a complaint about a general protections breach you would need to make an application to the Fair Work Commission. If you do make an application, the Commission can decide to hold a conference to try to deal with the dispute, as long as you and your employer agree to participate in it. If this fails then you may be able to go to court over the manner.

You can read more about general protections and how to make a general protections application to the Fair Work Commission here: https://www.fwc.gov.au/resolving-issues-disputes-and-dismissals/workplace-issues-disputes/general-protections

** You have to make a general protections application within 6 years of when they transferred you **

If you have any other questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 25 June 2015.

Question:

Hi, my name is Amanda and I’m 17. I have been working at a fast food shop for a year. A few weeks ago a customer accused me of stealing his phone. The shop called the police, but the charges against me were dropped. Since then I haven’t been rostered on for any shifts. I have a meeting with my boss tomorrow. What can I do if they fire me?


 

Answer:

Hi Amanda.

We’re sorry to hear this has happened! If the fast food shop says that they will end your employment, you can tell them that you will be lodging an application for unfair dismissal..

 

What is unfair dismissal?

If  the shop decides to end your employment, you can make a claim for unfair dismissal. The law says a dismissal is an unfair one if it was harsh, unjust or unreasonable.  The Fair Work Commission will decide if your dismissal has been unfair.

If your claim for unfair dismissal is successful, then the shop may have to give you your job back and possibly pay compensation.  This could include some ‘backpay’ for the shifts you weren’t given. To obtain compensation, you would need to be able to show that your shifts over the time that you worked for the shop were nearly always the same and regular for the entire time.

To make a claim for unfair dismissal, you need to send in your application within 21 days of being dismissed.  If the application is made after 21 days, it may be rejected unless there are very special circumstances. 

You can find out more about unfair dismissal here: https://www.fwc.gov.au/about-us/resources/guide-unfair-dismissal

 

How do you make an application for unfair dismissal?

You can apply for unfair dismissal by filling out the application form. You can find the application form (called Form F-2) here: https://www.fwc.gov.au/about-us/resources/forms

There is also an application fee of about $70 to make a claim for unfair dismissal.  However you may be able to get this fee waived (this means you don't have to pay it) if you can show that it would cause you financial difficulties.  You can find out more about how to lodge an application, and how to apply to get the application fee waived here: https://www.fwc.gov.au/resolving-issues-disputes-and-dismissals/lodge-application

 

What will happen after you submit your application?

After Fair Work Australia receives the application, they will send a copy of your complaint to the shop you work at. They will then have an opportunity to respond to your application. After that, Fair Work Australia will organise a meeting between you and the shop. It is possible that someone from your union may be able to go with you to this meeting. You can find your union here: http://www.unionsnsw.org.au/

If things cannot be resolved at the meeting, then there will be a formal hearing about your claim.

 

Who can you talk to?

It's a good idea to contact your union and ask for their advice if the shop ends your employment. 
If you would just like talk to someone about how you're feeling, you can call a counsellor from Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit their website here:  http://www.kidshelp.com.au/

If you have any other questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 25 June 2015.

 
 

Question:

Hi, my name is Luke and I’m 16. I’ve been working at a shop for 2 years. Recently my hours were cut back to one shift per week, and in the last month I haven’t had any shifts. My boss has been avoiding my phone calls and hasn’t given me a reason for cutting my shifts. Do I have any rights as a casual employee?




Answer:

Hi Luke,

We’re sorry to hear that you haven’t been getting any shits at work! Here are some things we think you can do.

  •  Talk to your boss

Luke, we think it’s a good idea to try and talk to your boss and find out why your shifts have been cut back. You mentioned that he is avoiding your phone calls. You could also send a letter by registered post to prove it was received. You can keep a copy as evidence if you need it later on.
  

  •  Make an application for unfair dismissal

You may also be able to make an application to the Fair Work Commission for unfair dismissal. Even though you haven't been formally dismissed (as your boss hasn't said you’ve been dismissed), you may have been ‘constructively dismissed’.  This is a legal term that means that because of your boss’ actions in not giving you any shifts (and not responding to your phone calls), you had to assume that you had been dismissed.  We explain what the law says about this below.

 

Do casual employees have rights?


The law says that in most cases, a casual employee can be dismissed after any shift.  This means that as long as the employee has completed the shift as planned, then it's not unfair to dismiss them.

However, if a casual employee can show that they have been employed on a 'regular and systemic basis', then the employee will have rights against unfair dismissal.  If you can show that you were consistently and regularly working 25-35 hours per week, roughly at the same times each week, you might be able to prove that your employment was regular and systemic. Even if you worked unpredictable hours in different weeks or months, that doesn't necessarily mean that your work wasn't regular and systemic. What is important is how frequently you worked. You would also need to show that you reasonably expected this pattern of work would continue.

 

What is unfair dismissal and how can you make an application?

If you think that you have been dismissed, you can make an unfair dismissal application to the Fair Work Commission if you can show that:

  1.  your employment as a casual has been on a regular and systematic basis; and
  2. you had a reasonable expectation of your employment continuing on a regular and systematic basis; and
  3. you have been dismissed from your job; and
  4. your dismissal was harsh, unjust or unreasonable (and was not a case of genuine redundancy).


The Commission will then decide whether the dismissal was unfair based on:

  •  whether there is a valid reason for the dismissal;
  •  whether you were notified of the reason and given an opportunity to respond;
  •  whether your employer unreasonably refused to allow you to have somebody present at any discussions; and
  •  any other relevant factors.


If the Commission decides that the dismissal was unfair, they can order your employer to give you shifts or compensate you. 
You can find out more about unfair dismissal here: https://www.fwc.gov.au/about-us/resources/guide-unfair-dismissal

You can apply for unfair dismissal by filling out the application form. You can find the application form (called Form F-2) here: https://www.fwc.gov.au/about-us/resources/forms

You must make an application for unfair dismissal no later than 21 days after you have been dismissed. 

  •  Sue for wrongful dismissal

You may also be able to take action against your employer for damages for wrongful dismissal. Wrongful dismissal occurs when the employer terminates employment with insufficient notice or without adequate legal reason. You may be able to claim damages for breach of your employment contract with your employer. You will need further legal advice on this option as it involves finding a lawyer who can act for you on an ongoing basis.

Who can you talk to?


It’s a good idea to get legal advice before you decide what to do. Because there is a time limit of 21 day to make an application for unfair dismissal we recommend you seek more detailed legal advice as soon as possible.

  • Fair Work Ombudsman


You can find out more about making an unfair dismissal application by contacting the Fair Work Ombudsman by phone (13 13 94). The FWO can give you advice about employment law and can assist you to decide whether or not to make a claim.

  •   NSW Legal Aid


Legal Aid has specialist employment services. You can find out more about them here: http://www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au/what-we-do/civil-law/employment-law-services.

You can also get free legal advice on the phone by calling LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529.

If you have any other questions, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 25 June 2015.

 

Question:

Hi my name is Mike. I’m 17 years old and have been working at a department store in Sydney for 2 years. Last year I was paid less than I should have been for a few months. I told my boss but he didn’t fix it. I resigned because of this and want back pay for the wages I am owed. How can I do this?





Answer:

Hi Mike,
We’re sorry to hear what’s happened. Good on you for checking your pay and checking what your rights are! Here’s what we think you can do about what’s happened:

  • Figure out how much you’re owed

You need to calculate the precise wages you are owed. It would be useful to know whether you signed an employment contract and / or whether you are covered by an employment award. Both will include information about the specific wages payable and the minimum rate of pay. Your payslips will show how much you were receiving before they reduced your pay. Junior rates of pay (for workers under 21) are usually a percentage of the adult rate for a job.
If you are covered by an award, you can use the PayCheck tool at Fair Work Online to calculate your minimum rate of pay under certain awards: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/pay/minimum-wages
This may help you work out what wages you should have been paid so that you may compare it with the wages you were actually paid. There are also situations in which you might be paid more (such as working on public holidays, or at night).

  •  Decide what you want to do

You’ll need to consider what to do if you have been underpaid. If you believe there has been a shortfall in the wages you received you can make a complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman. This can be made online at: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/how-we-will-help/how-we-help-you

 

You may need to supply copies of your payslips, group certificates, time sheets and correspondence between you and your employer as part of the complaint, so be sure to keep copies. It may also be useful to keep a diary of all verbal communications you have in relation to your complaint, to keep track of conversations between yourself, other staff, your manager and the owners.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will then investigate the complaint on your behalf and has the power to issue a compliance notice to your employer should it be determined that you have been underpaid. 
You could also contact the Fair Work Info Line on 13 13 94 (Between 8.00am - and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday) to discuss the individual aspects of your complaint further.

If you have any other questions we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

Question:

Hi, my name is Chris and I am 17 years old. I received an apprenticeship offer, however my parents refuse to let me drop out of school. Am I allowed to leave school after I have completed year 10? Are my parents allowed to stop me?





Answer:

Hi Chris,

 

When can you leave school to do an apprenticeship?


You have to go to school until you either complete Year 10 or turn 17 (whichever happens first). If you finish Year 10 but you are not yet 17, you have to either stay at school or you can complete some other approved training, such as an apprenticeship. 

Even though you can do the apprenticeship instead of staying in school past year 10, you also have some other options.

There are many schools in NSW which offer school based apprenticeships.  School based apprenticeships let you complete an apprenticeship while completing Years 11 and 12 at the same time.  School based apprentices work part-time and the on-the-job apprenticeship training counts towards your HSC subjects. This might be a good idea if you do not know exactly what you would like to do in the future.

You can find out more about school-based apprenticeships from your school careers counsellor or at this website: http://www.sbatinnsw.info/QandA.ph p 

 

Can your parents decide whether you can leave school to do an apprenticeship?


As a general rule, parents have a legal responsibility to look after their children until they are 18.  This includes a duty to provide you with shelter, food, clothing, protection and education. Your parents can be fined if you do not attend school or some approved work or other training while you are under 17. 

With this responsibility comes a parental power to make rules and decisions for you. It is up to your parents to determine, within reason, what is in your best interests at this stage of your life. So, your parents can make rules about whether you go to school, how much time you have to spend on schoolwork, and so on to make sure you are receiving a good education.

But the law also says that as you grow older and more mature, you become more able to weigh up the benefits, risks and consequences of a decision and make your own choice about it. This means that you should have a greater say in matters that affect you as you grow up. While your parents should recognise your right to participate in important decisions about your education, this right is not necessarily something that you can go to court to enforce.

However, NSW public schools will allow students to make their own decisions in certain circumstances. For more information, check out:
https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/media/downloads/about-us/how-we-operate/legal-issues-bulletins/number_53.pdf

 

What can you do?


  •  Talk to your parents

A good first step is to try to speak to your parents about how you are feeling and why you would like to leave school after completing year 10 to undertake an apprenticeship. If you don't feel comfortable talking to them alone, you can ask a family member or your school's careers counsellor to help out.

We've also found some great guides and factsheets designed specifically for parents to better understand options such as apprenticeships. You may want to give this link to your parents so that they can find out more: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/vetinschools/schooltowork/parentscommunity/partnerships.html 

You can also check out this page from Kids Helpine about tips for talking to your parents:
http://www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-info/hot-topics/talking-with-your-parents.php

  •  Family mediation

If you and your parents aren't able to reach a compromise on your own, you can try family mediation. Mediation is where you can sit down with a neutral third person who can help both you and your parents talk in a calm and relaxed way.
If you'd like more information about the service, check out: http://nsw.relationships.com.au/ourservices/services-library/adolescent.aspx

  •   Talk to your careers counsellor

If you and your parents cannot agree on leaving school after Year 10, you can also talk to your school careers counsellor about your other options, including school-based apprenticeships.

  •   Get some extra support

If you ever want to talk to someone about anything that's going on in your life, you can call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or chat online at www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-help/web-counselling. It's free and confidential.

 

If you have any other questions we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 26 June 2015.


 


   
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