All employees are protected under the Fair Work Act, even if there is no written agreement. But who has time to read that? 

Here's a quick cheat sheet to what you should know before starting a new job so you can get busy thinking up ways to spend all that money you're about to make.

Before you start any job you should ask:

  • What should you expect to receive when you start employment?
    • Ideally when you start your employment, you should be receiving an employment contract which outlines what award you fall under (if applicable), your employment status (see below), your rate of pay and your contracted hours (if applicable).
    • By law, you should also receive a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement. The statement includes a copy of the National Employment Standards (NES), a list of 10 entitlements that award workers have (with casual employees only being entitled to some) as well as general information about your workplace rights. click here to see them.
  • Are you a casual, part-time or full-time employee?
  • Full-time and part-time employees (aka permanent employees) are characterised by regular shifts and hours that are should be specified in the contract. Full-time employees work 38 hours a week. Permanent employees receive entitlements such as annual leave, sick leave, notice periods, and are generally more secure in their employment, but in return do not receive casual loading.
  • Casual employees do not have to be rostered on regularly or have regular shifts (although they may be), and in return they receive a 25% loading on the base rate or minimum wage. Casual employees are not entitled to any paid leave and are generally not guaranteed secure employment.
  • Are you being paid the correct wage?
    • Most workers are covered by an industry relevant award. Awards are the documents that specify the minimum entitlements that you should be receiving, such as penalty rates, breaks, allowances and pay. Find out what award you are covered by here.
    • The minimum for employees over 21 yo is $19.49 (extra if you are a casual employee) so anything less is illegal.
    • The minimum hourly rate is lower for workers under the age of 21 in most awards and the federal minimum rate, so be sure to check if you are under 21 (aka a junior employee).
  • How often will you be paid and how?
    • You should be paid at least monthly but check your award as you may be entitled to be paid sooner 
    • It is OK to be paid in cash as long as your employer complies with all their other legal requirements, like pay slips, withholding tax and paying your super. 
  • How do I get paid superannuation?
    • Employers must pay an amount that is 9.5% of your wage on top of your normal pay towards a nominated superannuation fund. Some employers may advertise your hourly pay as inclusive of superannuation, in which case it must be above the minimum hourly rate + 9.5%.
    • You can nominate your own superannuation fund, but if you do not, employers may make contributions to a superannuation fund of their own choice. There is often a list of superannuation funds in your award that lists the super funds your employer may nominate.
    • You are only entitled to superannuation if you are over 18 and you earn $450 or more per month. If you are under 18, you must work more than 30 hours a week to be entitled to superannuation.
    • Employers must make superannuation payments at least every quarter but may do so more frequently if they wish.
  • What are your regular hours of work?
  • Full-time employees work an average of 38 hours a week.
  • If you are permanent part-time, many awards will also specify that the employer and you should agree on the minimum number of hours you have to be engaged per week or roster cycle, called ‘guaranteed hours’.
    • Casual employees have no guaranteed hours, nor guaranteed regular hours. Hours as a casual would thus be determined on the basis of the employer’s discretion. However, casuals should be paid for a minimum of 2 hours each shift. 
  • Are you are entitled to penalty rates for weekend shifts etc?
    • If you are a casual, penalty rates typically apply for shifts during unsociable hours (e.g. early mornings or very late at night), weekends and public holidays. Most awards have penalty rates. For the exact rates, you should check your award or agreement. 
  • Do you get an allowance/reimbursement if you have to travel or wear a uniform?
    • Many awards give allowances for required travel and uniform. 
    • Employees required to buy work related items can’t be forced by their employer to use their wages to pay for these items, if the requirement is unreasonable.

If you don't receive a written agreement from your employer recording these conditions, send an email describing what you discussed and agreed to. For example:

"As we discussed, I have been hired as a casual food server at your restaurant starting on 1 July. My pay is $22.15 an hour (plus super) for two regular shifts of 4 hours every Wednesday and Saturday (5-9pm), and I will be paid by EFT every fortnight." 

You may also consider joining your trade union if you are concerned with the treatment of your workplace rights.

Things to do

  • If you have a smartphone, download the "Record My Wages" app from Fair Work so you can easily keep track of the hours you worked (and to make sure you are being paid correctly!)

Give your employer:

  • Tax File Declaration Form
  • Superannuation Standard Choice Form
  • Bank account details

Things to watch out for

  • Are you being paid less than the minimum wage in exchange for equity in the business or mentoring? 
  • Have you been asked to supply an ABN or told you are a contractor?
  • Is the probation or training period unpaid?
  • Can your employer make changes to the agreement or your position without your consent?
  • Does the contract say that you can’t work for a competitor company after your employment ends?
  • Who owns IP (intellectual property)?
    • If you create something as part of your job (e.g., a product, presentation, picture, web content) your employer owns that intellectual property, and can use it however they want. Employees will generally retain moral rights to IP but check your agreement (this may be important if you are a photographer/artist and you want to later display your work in a portfolio).  
    • BUT anything created in your own time, and with your own resources is all yours AND employers can’t claim anything created before you started the job. 
  • Are there any references to employment policies that are not included in the agreement?
    • If yes, always ask for a copy. You could be agreeing to something without knowing what it is.

If you see any of these terms in a contract (or your boss tells you it applies) get advice!

Always read any contract carefully. 

If you don’t understand it, don’t sign it. 

And never be pressured into signing something on the spot or without talking to someone first.

Got questions? Need Advice? Shoot us an email or make an appointment today.

Legal & Advocacy

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