Working rights and responsibilities

Working rights and responsibilities

As you search for jobs, always examine what is being offered. Make sure you understand your rights in the workplace. You need to look at the status of the work and its remuneration, tax and superannuation considerations.

Workplace rights 

All workers in Australia are entitled to a range of general workplace rights. Useful websites to refer to are:

Work status

The Fair Work Ombudsman provides the following definitions of a worker's status:

Full-time

Full-time employees work an average of 38 hours per week and usually have an ongoing period of employment. Full-time employees are entitled to all of the conditions of the National Employment Standards including maximum number of hours of work per week, paid annual and personal leave, public holidays and notice when they lose their job. Other conditions of employment will come from any award or agreement that applies.

Part-time 

Part-time employees work an average of less than 38 hours per week. They are usually hired on an ongoing basis and work the same set of hours. Part-time employees are entitled to the same things as full-time employees, but on a 'pro-rata' basis, which means that it's based on the number of hours they work.

Casual

Casual employees are paid based on the number of hours they work. They usually aren't guaranteed a certain amount of hours of work per week, but can work regular hours. Casuals are paid a higher rate of pay, called a 'casual loading', instead of receiving some of the benefits that full-time and part-time employees get. For example, casuals don't usually get paid annual leave or paid sick leave.

Remuneration 

  • Salary = a fixed annual amount of pay.
  • Wages = an hourly rate of pay.
  • Pro-rata = a proportional rate of pay for part-time employees.
  • 'Cash in hand' or 'off the books' refers to being paid without the employer first taking out the required taxes. Failure to tax an employee is against the law and employers risk fines in doing so. Check your pay slip to make sure tax is being taken out.
  • Unpaid internships — the Fair Work Act provides guidance on what kind of internships comply with Australian labour laws. Refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman for further information.
  • Unpaid trials are against the law.
  • Commission-only work means there is no base salary or wage, and you only get paid for the sales you make.
  • Penalty rates (higher rates) may be available to you if you work overtime, nights, weekends or public holidays.

Tax and superannuation 

All employees need a Tax File Number (TFN) and ensure they declare their tax rate to their employer, or they will be taxed at the highest rate. A Tax File Number can be obtained online from the Australian Taxation Office.

The Australian Taxation Office defines superannuation (Super) as 'money set aside over your lifetime to provide for your retirement'. For most people, super begins when you start work and your employer starts paying super for you. You can also build your super with your own contributions to take advantage of super's favourable tax treatment." Visit the Australian Taxation Office website for further information.

International students 

If you are an international student, you may need to check your eligibility to work and ensure you understand the guidelines of your visa.

More resources

Australian Taxation Office

For information and advice on tax and superannuation.

Fair Work Ombudsman

For information and advice about Australia's workplace rights and rules.

Australian Human Rights Commission

For information and advice on human rights issues.

Work Cover Authority of NSW

For information and advice on workplace health and safety.

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