Warning signs your work is taking advantage of you

Do you ever feel like there might be something a bit off about how you’re treated at work?

Maybe your boss hasn’t paid you for all those overtime hours that you’ve worked. Or maybe you’re expected to work through your breaks because everyone is run off their feet.

As a young worker it can be hard to know what your rights are and when you’re not getting what you deserve. But your rights are important and not just important for now, but also for your future.

That’s why we’ve broken down some of the common warning signs that might mean your workplace is taking advantage of you.

You’re getting paid less than you should be

Your boss should be paying you correctly for the work that you do. Sounds pretty simple. However, there are many ways workplaces might be paying you incorrectly.

Getting paid below the minimum hourly rate that you’re entitled to for your work

Finding out what you should be paid can be a bit tricky. This is because there are so many factors involved in your pay (such as if your job is covered by an Award or Agreement, the type of work you do and much, much more). If you’re not sure about what you should be getting paid you can check the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Not being paid extra for late night work, weekends, or public holiday work (known as penalty rates)

Again, this depends on your job, but you may be eligible for higher hourly rates for working at different times.

If you haven’t been paid for the actual hours that you have worked, including if you have been paid incorrectly for overtime work

As a general rule, you should be paid for the time you worked.

If you didn’t get paid for trial shifts or training that you need to do to complete the job

Most of the time there is no such thing as ‘unpaid work’ and often unpaid trial work will not lead to legitimate paid work.

“Over one in five callers to our employment rights legal centre this year has been underpaid, but we know that there are more people out there being exploited for their labour who don’t know where to turn for help” a spokesperson from JobWatch said.
“There are ways you can recover your lost wages. If you suspect you are being underpaid you should seek immediate legal information by calling our free and confidential Telephone Information Service on 1800 331 617 or 03 9662 1933.”

Want to learn more about your rights as a young worker?

Check out our full list of free events for young workers to find out more about your rights at work:

Two careful young workers working on a machine in toolroom.

You’re not getting the right breaks or leave

Your rights at work are more than what you get paid. Your employer needs to provide you with adequate breaks during your shifts under law. You may also be entitled to receive annual leave and sick leave depending upon your employment contract. Permanent part-time and full-time workers will get paid annual leave and sick leave, but casuals do not. These are the common ways workplaces might be falling short:  

  • If you’re not getting your required breaks
  • If you’re entitled to sick leave but are not paid for it
  • If you’re working full or part-time and are not receiving any leave
  • If any entitled annual leave is not paid out when you finish your job

“Breaks and leave entitlements depend on what type of job you have, and whether it falls under the award system or whether you have an enterprise agreement or common law contract. The best thing you can do to understand your entitlements is to review your employment contract, said a spokesperson from JobWatch said.

For some workers, not getting the breaks detailed in their contract could lead to claims for overtime penalty rates, so it’s important to keep on top of your entitlements to ensure you are not overworked and underpaid.”

Are you a casual worker? Learn more about your rights at JobWatch’s free online event ‘Changes for Casuals: update on your working rights’ on Tuesday 18 May 2021.

You’re not getting paid any super

Superannuation is essentially savings that you can access when you retire and often makes up much of your retirement funding. It might not be the first thing that you think about when you start working but it’s so important in the long run. Making sure you’re paid correctly from when you start working really helps your super accumulate for your future.

“We know wage theft is a rampant problem when it comes to bosses not paying superannuation for young workers. In the last two years alone, we’ve recovered more than $30,000 of unpaid super. That $30,000 we’ve recovered? In 40 years, with compound interest, that could be worth around half a million dollars, so it really does add up said Oanh Tran, Principal Solicitor for the Young Workers Centre.

If you want to learn more about your super and are based in Melbourne you can check out the free event ‘Your super, your future‘ on Wednesday 19 May 2021.

Young cafe worker smiling.

But how can you tell that this has happened to you and that you are being taken advantage of?

In most cases all the information you need will be on your pay slip.

Your pay slip should include information about your hours worked, clear dates of the pay period, information about your pay rate and superannuation contribution and more.

If you’re not getting a pay slip? That’s a big issue, as this is a legal requirement for every time you get paid (and should set off alarm bells). In this situation you should get in touch with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Casual workers are often at a high risk of being taken advantage of and not receiving pay slips.

“Combined with the end of JobKeeper, increasing casualisation of the workforce is particularly concerning in terms of what it may mean for workers’ rights. We’re facing a perfect storm of workplaces in financial difficulties and workers being let go, stood down, underpaid or unpaid for the work they do,” a spokesperson from JobWatch said.
Recent changes to Fair Work Amendment Bill 2020 will also lead to changes for casual workers. It’s important that all casual workers are aware of these changes, and we encourage them to sign up for Law Week events to learn more

Changes to the rules around casual work are coming. To learn more about your rights join the free online event ‘Changes for Casuals: update on your working rights’ on Tuesday 18 May 2021.

Where can you go for more information?

Check out the JobWatch website to learn more about your rights as a casual worker.

If you do believe that your workplace is taking advantage of you, you can go to the Young Workers Centre and check out the JobWatch website to learn more.

You can also check out the events at Victorian Law Week to learn more how you can protect your rights at work .

Looking to find answers to other legal questions?

Check out the full program of free events for Victorian Law Week