My contract says that I have a probation period. What does that mean?
A probation period is a length of time, even a few months, where the employer can see if you are suitable for the business and the job. If the employer doesn’t think you are the right person for the job in your probation period, they can end your employment for any reason.
So they can just tell me that I don’t fit and that’s it? Will I lose my job?
Yes. You can lose your job. Your employer has to give you notice and you can get any accrued annual leave entitlements paid to you.
So if there is no probationary period or after the probationary period has ended, they can’t just end my employment, right?
In some cases they can. It depends on whether unfair dismissal laws apply.
What do mean IF unfair dismissal laws apply? You can lose your job for any reason? That doesn’t sounds fair?
Unfair dismissal is where you lose your job and the reason was unjust, unreasonable or harsh or it wasn’t a genuine redundancy. But they only apply after a certain time period, depending on the size of the employer.
And then, there is unlawful dismissal where the employer sacks you but it is actually illegal for them to do that. Things that the employer cannot sack you for are things like being away from work for a short time because of illness or injury, parental leave, union membership, joining in union activities, your refusal to negotiate or sign a certified or enterprise agreement. It is illegal to sack someone based on discrimination as well.
So they can’t force me to sign an enterprise agreement and if I want to stay being employed by the award, and they can’t sack me because I come from a different country or have a different religion. Is that right?
Yes that’s right.
But they can sack me in the first 6 months or year even if it is unfair?
It gets really complicated depending on whether you are a national system employee or not. It is best to get legal advice from a community legal centre, the Fair Work Commission or the Qld Government Office of Industrial Relations.
If I get hurt at work, I am not going to tell anyone. I do not want to lose my job.
Actually here in Australia, it is important to report every injury, no matter how small.
No way! I will lose my job!
If you don’t report an injury and if it gets worse or you can’t work, you won’t be able to get help. If you do report when something happens at work, then you are covered.
Covered? By what? For what?
In Australia there is workers compensation. It is a system that pays you if you are hurt at work. It also pays for all your medical costs so that you can return to work.
So if I get hurt at work and report it and this system pays to get me better and get back to work?
Does it apply to every injury? What if I get bullied and my doctor says that I have anxiety or depression?
Yes, that’s covered as well. Physical and mental injuries both are covered.
So if I get bullied at work because of my accent or religion or my gender, do I just wait until I can’t stand it anymore then go to my doctor?
No way. In Australia there are rules against bullying, harassment and discrimination. You don’t have to wait until you are so hurt by the comments or actions that you must go to the doctor. It is much better to speak up about these things early.
But if someone is being nasty to me at work, who do I tell?
You tell you supervisor or boss. The employer must provide you with a safe place to work, including a workplace free from bullying, discrimination and harassment.
Am I supposed to get a play slip in Australia?
Yes. Your employer has to give you pay slips by law. They must give it to you within 1 day of each pay. They have to show what your hourly rate is, how many hours your worked, your leave balances, how much superannuation has been paid, how much tax you have paid and any other amounts that they have deducted from your pay.
How do I know if I am being paid correctly?
Check your pay slip and make sure that your hourly rate is the same as what the employer said in your employment contract, even if that was not written down – a verbal contract only.
You should also check that your employer is not under paying you.
How do I check that?
Contact the Fair Work Ombudsman first. You can go to their website www.fairwork.gov.au/pay where they have an online tool or you can email them. If you can’t get to a computer or have trouble using the internet you can telephone them on 13 13 94
You said that my payslip should show taxation and superannuation. I am not an Australian citizen so do I still pay tax and get superannuation?
With superannuation, if you are an Australian resident and you earn over a certain amount each month, before tax, your employer has to pay you superannuation. Superannuation is compulsory savings for Australian resident’s future.
There are different tax rates for people who are not Australian residents and working holiday makers.
Why do employees need to pay tax?
Taxation is paid so that the governments can provide services and build public infrastructure, like roads, hospitals, schools. The tax rate changes depending on how much you earn.
You can earn a minimum amount each year and not pay tax. This is called the tax fee threshold. This only applies to Australian residents.
What do you mean when you say my pay slip can show my leave entitlements?
If you are a full time or part time worker, the amount of sick leave, annual leave and long service leave adds up. Your pay slip can show those balances.
Does my pay slip show all leave entitlements?
Not necessarily. For every year that you work full time or part time, workers are entitled to at least 10 days paid personal or sick leave, 2 days of unpaid carers leave and 2 days of compassionate leave.
If you are a casual worker, your leave entitlements are 2 days unpaid carers leave and 2 days unpaid compassionate leave.
Does that include leave if we have a baby?
That is called parental leave and there are no balances for that on your pay slip. You are entitled to unpaid parental leave and you may be entitled to paid parental leave. To check if you are eligible ring the Commonwealth Government’s department of human services phone number 136 150. You can also check to see if you are eligible for dad and partner pay.
What about public holidays?
This also depends on whether you are casual or not. If you are full time or part time and usually would work on a public holiday, you are entitled to be paid for that day even though you don’t work that day. If you are casual, you only get paid if you work.
What is long service leave?
If you stay with the same employer for a long time, normally 10 years, you are entitled to long service leave.
Hey, I have received a letter that is an offer of a job. Is that normal here?
Yes. For some jobs there is a verbal offer and for some there is a written offer.
What do I do now?
You need to read through it all, understand what it means and then usually you must sign and return it.
If I can’t understand everything, what do I do then?
If you can’t understand everything, ask someone to help you.
Who do I ask?
You can go back to the employer and ask them. If there is legal wording, you can ask at a community legal centre for free legal advice and information or you can call the Queensland Government on 13 QGOV – that means 13 74 68 and ask if they have a department that can help you.
So is this letter of offer all I have to understand?
No, you also must understand employment contracts.
Employment contracts? What are they?
The employment contract has all the terms, conditions, rights and responsibilities for the job. It can be written or verbal.
If I cannot remember all the things said to me?
It is always better to have one in writing because then there can be no misunderstanding about your pay, conditions and what the employer expects of you. There are legal minimum boundaries so the employment contract cannot offer you less than what is decided by the law.
Who decides what the minimum boundaries of the employment contract are?
These are set out in the National Employment Standards, awards, enterprise agreement or registered agreements.
What are mentioned the National Employment Standards?
There are 10 minimum entitlements listed. An employer is not allowed to pay you less than the minimum wage. Also you can’t work more than the maximum hours per week. There are also standards for flexible working, parental leave, annual leave, community service leave, long service leave, public holidays, termination and redundancy pay. Some of these don’t apply to casual work though.
What do you mean “casual” work?
In Australia you can be employed as full time, part-time, casual, fixed term, shift-worker, daily or weekly hire or as an apprentice. Casual work is where there is no guarantee of any work. There are usually irregular hours,. You can refuse to accept a shift when it is offered and normally, you don’t have to give the employer any notice to leave the job. You also don’t get paid if you are sick or go on a holiday because there is no annual or sick leave.
What is full time and part time then?
Full time and part time work is where there is an ongoing contract. It could also be work for a fixed time. They usually have set and regular hours each week. They get sick leave, annual leave and long service leave if you stay long enough. They have to give a set amount of time as notice when you want to leave the job.
So full time and part time have more security for the future and have more entitlements. Casual workers have more flexibility. Is that right?
Yes and casual workers usually get paid a higher hourly rate, called a “casual loading” because there is no job security and no leave entitlements.
Did you get work?
I did! I am so excited to be earning my own money. I work and the money I earn goes into my bank account. I can buy things I need and want. I work for a good employer.
I have heard some stories about people who take advantage of workers and treat them unfairly. How did you find a good employer?
After I saw the advertisement, I asked around about the employer. Then I looked on the internet for reviews and researched the business on the internet as well. The business I work for has a Facebook page so I looked at that. I looked for blogs about the business. I also searched for other social media accounts to see what experience others have had.
Some people say that fitting in is really important. Have you found that to be true?
Yes it is. One of the other things I researched before I even applied for the job was what the values and culture of the business was. Doing the research also gave me an idea of the questions I wanted to ask when I got an interview.
Oh OK. So after you decided that this employer was a good one for you, what did you do then?
With this job, there was a job description listed. It is called a position description.
What is that?
The position description is a document that lists what is expected of me and what the job actually is. It usually lists out the skills that are needed and which skills you will be taught on the job. It lists the qualifications and the qualities that the employer is looking for. I read that position description and used it in my research on the culture of the business. I also used it when I was getting ready for my interview.
An interview? Was it hard?
Yes of course! I was sweating and nervous! You should have seen me! But it didn’t hurt me and I knew I had done everything I could to prepare for the interview.
How did you prepare for a job interview?
Well I made sure that I could answer all the selection criteria in the advertisement. I knew what qualifications the employer wanted and since I had those qualifications, that part was easy to be ready for. I also had a list of questions for the employer.
You had questions? But you are the one applying for the job. Do you really get to ask questions?
You sure do. It is expected because it shows you have looked up the business and you are interested in knowing more. It also shows the employer that you are keen. Of course it helps you as well because you can find out what you need to know about this employer and this job that you couldn’t find out any other way.
So what type of questions did you ask?
I asked about the culture of the business especially in relation to training and being a person whose first language is not English. I also asked about the tools and the computers for this job. Every job is different though so it is just a matter of going through the information you have and working out what you need or want to know.
Surely they asked you questions too!
Of course they did! They asked a lot of questions about my background, my qualifications, skills and competencies.
How did you know what they were going to ask?
I didn’t know exactly every question but I had an idea from their advertisement and also from researching about interviews. They asked questions and needed me to give examples of specific tasks. Every job is going to have different questions depending on the job and the skills. I made sure that I gave specific examples of when I had done things such as worked in a team and used a particular tool or the computer program.
Did you find it hard to get there? What did you wear?
I worked out what I was going to wear that would be suitable for the job I was applying for. I heard that it was better to be overdressed so I went with better clothes. I had them ready and sorted out days before! I also worked out how I was getting to the interview so that I was not late. I did not want to turn up all sweaty and rushed to the interview.
Did you take anything with you to the interview?
Yes I did. Even though I had already sent in my CV, copies of my certificates with my application, I had copies of them with me too. I had my list of questions and I had a pen with me. I had it all in a folder which was great because I had something to hold onto and something to look at while I was waiting.
Hey, I am going to look for work!
You know it’s different in Australia with your work rights, visas, unions don’t you?
No. You just get paid cash in the hand and do what you are told don’t you?
Not here. If you take cash in hand you are not covered if you have an injury. It is also illegal for an employer to pay you and not take tax out of your pay. You should get paid through the books and get superannuation as well.
What do you mean covered for an injury?
Here in Australia there is a system called workers compensation. It is an insurance that means that if you get injured at work, you get paid wages and the insurer pays for your medical bills to get you back to work.
Yes. Here in Australia the employer has to be a part of the workers compensation system. They also have to abide by other laws for workers too like safety, maximum hours of work each week, pay you for all the time you work and there are rules about workplace discrimination.
But I am not an Australian citizen.
That doesn’t matter. The laws apply to all workers regardless of whether you are a citizen, a permanent resident or a temporary visa worker.
Ok. What if the employer wants to pay me less? I don’t have a choice do I?
The pay rates and your rights as a worker cannot be taken away by an agreement. It is Australian law and the employer must comply with the law. If you get an employer who is trying to use and abuse you, this is called exploitation. You can get help from the Fair Work Ombudsman by ringing them on 13 13 94.
But if I only have a temporary work visa, the government will take my visa off me and send me home if I complain about the employer, won’t they?
No they won’t if you have done nothing wrong. They are actually trying to stop exploitation of workers.
It actually sounds like they are! I have heard about workers unions. What are they?
Unions are groups that have been set up to help workers and to fight for better conditions for workers.
Is everyone in a workers union?
No. It is your choice to be in a union. Employers cannot stop you from being in a union. If you want to join a workers union, you apply to become a member of the union.
How do they fight for better conditions?
They negotiate with employers. They negotiate with governments. They also take industrial action, such as stopping work, which is called a strike. Other industrial action they can take is to put a ban on some work. They use industrial action if there is something that cannot be agreed or if there is something really unfair or unsafe.
I can’t stop work! I will lose my job!
No, you won’t lose your job if the industrial action is protected by law.
How can industrial action be protected by law?
There are certain conditions for the industrial action being protected by law. For example, if the action is taken during negotiations for an enterprise agreement, then it is protected.
What do you mean by an enterprise agreement?
An enterprise agreement is between employers and their employees. Enterprise agreements are negotiated by both parties through collective bargaining in good faith.
OK. But what happens if industrial action isn’t protected by law?
If the fair work commission has ordered that the industrial action is unprotected, you can be fined a lot of money.