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Hi, my name is Freddie, I am 16 and live in Darwin. My dad is threatening me to make me quit my job at the cinema. Can he make me do this?


Hello Freddie,

The law says that you can work at your age, so long as the work isn't harmful to you and doesn't have a negative effect on your schooling.

The law doesn't require you to have your dad's permission in order to work, but as your parent, he is responsible for looking after you and is allowed to make reasonable rules about things like where and when you work. The best thing for you to do would be to try to talk to your dad about why he wants you to quit your job and to try to reach a compromise.


What age can I start work?

You can start part-time or casual work at any age in the Northern Territory. However, it is against the law for your boss to ask you to work during the times when you are required to be at school.  Also, your boss can’t make you do anything that’s likely to harm your health.  So if a job requires lots of physical work that it’s not appropriate for a young person to do, you might not be allowed to do that job.

You can work full-time when you are 17 or you have completed year 10 at school.  Working full time means working at least 25 hours per week.


Do I need my parents’ permission to work?

You do not need your dad’s permission to work. However, your parents generally have a legal responsibility to look after you until you are 18. This includes a duty to keep you safe and to make sure that you have food, shelter, medical care and an education. It also includes the authority set reasonable rules for you, such as rules about who you can hang out with, when you can go out, and where you can work.

As a result, even though the law doesn't require you to have your dad's permission in order to work, your dad may be able to stop you from working anyway.


What can I do?

We encourage you to talk to your dad about the concerns he has about your working and to try to reach a compromise. For example, if he is worried that your work hours are interfering with school, you may be able to ask your boss about cutting back your hours on school days and working more on weekends and holidays.

If you need help talking to your dad, you could ask another family member or your school counsellor to talk to him with you.

You can also have a look at this fact sheet from Kids Helpline, which has tips about talking to parents: .


Where can I get more information?

For more information about employment and the law, check out our Lawstuff page here:

If you would 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:

If you have any other questions, please send us a Lawmail from

Page last updated on 25 June 2015.



Hi, I’m Phil and I live in Alice Springs. I was working as an apprentice for three months and then signed a contract. My boss said the three months don’t count because I was only doing labouring duties. Am I entitled to get back paid for this?


Hi Phil,
We’re sorry to hear that you haven’t been paid! We hope this information helps you figure out if you should have been paid and if so, what you can do about it.


Should you have been paid?

The amount you get paid should be agreed with your boss before you start work. If you and your boss agreed to a higher rate for labouring work than the wage you were paid for the three months, you may be entitled to back-pay.

The work you did in that 3 months may be covered by an 'award'. An 'award' sets out minimum rate of pay for employees working in a specific job and classification.

Some other employers, usually bigger businesses, negotiate and agree to 'enterprise agreements' with their employees. These agreements may also set out a minimum rate of pay.

If there is an award or an enterprise agreement that applies to you that said your boss had to pay you more than you got, you may also be entitled to back-pay.


Talking to your boss

If you feel like you are entitled to back-pay, don't be afraid to talk to your boss about it. They may have made a mistake. It will be helpful when you speak to your boss if you can show him an agreement or award (if there is one) to explain why you think you are entitled to back-pay.

If you don't feel comfortable talking to your boss on your own, you could ask a parent or another trusted adult to come along. Remember to tell your boss if you are going to bring someone else along to talk to them.


Where can you get help and more information?

Before talking to your boss, it might be a good idea to speak to one of the organisations below to get more information on what you were entitled to. They can help you figure out exactly what you were entitled to when you were doing labouring duties.

  •  Fair Work Ombudsman

The Fair Work Ombudsman can give you information and advice on what pay you're entitled to, and how to talk to your boss about any concerns you may have.

To find out what you should have be paid when you were doing labouring duties, call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.

  •  Australian Apprenticeship Centre

Australian Apprenticeship Centres are there to help all Australian Apprentices. Wherever you are in the Northern Territory, Australian Apprenticeships NT can assist you with Apprenticeships enquiries.

You can call them on 1300 137 130.
The website is: and the email is:

  •  Contact a union

If you are member of a Trade Union, they may also be able to help.

If you need to find out the right union for your job, contact the ACTU Workers Line on 1300 362 223 or go to their website here:

You can also look at the NT Union website at:


Can you make a complaint?

If you have spoken to your employer and still haven't worked out the issue of back-pay, you can complain to the Fair Work Ombudsman. The Ombudsman has the power to enforce the law, ensuring your employer pays you the amount you're supposed to get.

Here is the complaints website for the Fair Work Ombudsman: 

It is important that before you make a complaint you call the Fair Work Ombudsmen to make sure you have the right information and that you try and speak to your boss about the issue.

If you have any other questions we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail from

This page was last updated 18 July 2015.

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