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What are Your Rights at Work?


One of the first things most migrants after they settle in Australia is look for employment. It is important to know your rights and responsibilities at work, as these may differ from the laws in other countries. In Australia, workers are entitled to a minimum set of rights under the law, and employers must ensure that these rights are met in order to avoid breaking the law. These include award wages, leave, and rights regarding termination, discrimination and bullying, and occupational health and safety.

The conditions you are entitled to as a worker will depend on your state or territory, your industry, your position and expected duties, age, which type of award you are under, and your employment type (permanent or casual). A brief explanation of some of the main conditions you are entitled to are explained in the following sections.




Question Answer
Where do I begin?  Knowing what type of employee you are is the first step to working out your rights at work. When you first start work your boss should tell you whether you are a permanent or casual employee. Permanent employees normally have an ongoing right to work; casual employees usually only work when needed.
If you can’t work out which type of employee you are, you can ask your employer – you should not get in trouble for asking! If you are still unsure you can ask a lawyer to help you figure it out. 
How do I work out what my rights are? Your rights at work come from a number of places – some rights are set out in the law and your boss cannot take them away from you. Other rights come from your individual agreement with your employer.

Your employment contract or agreement can help you to work out your rights. Your employment contract will not always be in writing – sometimes it will be a spoken agreement between you and your employer.

Most employees are covered by a Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement that is approved by Fair Work Australia – these set out rights to things like rates of pay, hours of work, meal breaks and overtime.

Most employees are also covered by the National Employment Standards – these set out rights to things like when you can take paid and unpaid leave and what your employer must do when you lose your job.
What are some of the important rights I should know about? The National Employment Standards outline basic entitlements that apply to most employees;
  • Maximum Weekly Hours: Your boss should not make you work more than 38 hours in a week unless the hours are reasonable. Some employees should be paid extra for working more than 38 hours.
  • Parental Leave: If you have been working for your employer for 12 months and give birth or adopt a child, you should be allowed to take 12 months off and be allowed to return to your job.
  • Annual Leave: If you are a permanent employee, you are entitled to paid annual leave (holidays). The number of days you get depends on how many hours per week you work.
  • Personal /carer’s leave: Permanent employees can take 10 days per year of paid leave if they are sick or caring for a sick family member. Casual employees can take unpaid leave.
  • Notice of Termination: Permanent employees are entitled to be given notice if they are going to lose their job – the number of weeks depends on how long you have worked for.

Modern Awards and Enterprise Agreements outline other basic entitlements such as:

  • Minimum pay rates: Most adult employees should not be paid less than $15 per hour as of 1 July 2010. Your minimum pay rate will depend on what industry you work in and what type of work you do.
  • Penalty rates, allowances and overtime: Casual employees are usually paid a “penalty rate” to make up for not receiving paid holidays or sick leave. Other employees get paid extra for working at night or overtime. Some employees are paid extra because they use their own tools or wear a uniform.
There are many more rights and you should get advice if you are not sure about what applies to you.

What can I do if my employer is not paying me correctly? You can get free legal advice from Kingsford Legal Centre. They can talk you through all the options and maybe able to help you fix the problem. Call 9385 9566 to make an appointment (they will provide a free interpreter if you need one).

You can call the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94 (13 14 50 for an interpreter). They can help you work out what Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement applies to you, give you information about workplace rights and can investigate complaints if you think you’ve been underpaid.





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