Know your rights when working in Australia – topics you should be aware of

Know your rights when working in Australia – topics you should be aware of

During an information session, Community Legal Centre - West Justice covers the essential workplace rights everyone should know.

Whether you’ve just started working in Australia or are just unsure of your rights as an employee, it’s important to be aware of your entitlements.

Here, a Youth Employment Lawyer from Westjustice, Western Community Legal Centre shares the information you should know.  

Westjustice is a community organisation that provides free and confidential legal advice to people who live, study or work in the Western suburbs of Melbourne. They also provide free and confidential legal advice to all International Students across Victoria with employment and/or accommodation legal issues. If you are an international student, you can contact Study Melbourne to book an appointment.  

Read on for answers to frequently asked questions, plus other important information you should be aware of when working in Australia.

Pay and entitlements: 

  • Every employee in Australia is covered by Employment Laws and National Employment Standards

  • Employees are also covered by legal documents that outline the minimum pay rates and conditions of employment. Such as their contract of employment and additionally for some workers, an Award (that is industry specific, e.g., Hospitality award) or Enterprise agreements (these are workplace specific)

  • All employees are entitled to at least the national minimum wage and superannuation (some employees have rights to extra pay such as overtime, penalty rates and allowance) 

  • It's unlawful for an employer not to pay you, or to underpay you - in this case, you can make a legal claim to be paid properly. You have 6 years to make a claim for unpaid wages or entitlements. 

  • If something feels funny about your pay, or you want to know if you are being paid right, seek legal advice from West Justice!

Tips for workers: 

  • Always keep copies of any documents, emails, texts and keep all pay slips and notes about all verbal conversations related to work

  • Keep a work diary with all shifts and actual hours worked (not just roster) or use FWO’s Record My Hours App

  • Find out the identity of your boss – their full name, business name, ABN, address (email and postal, and phone number. 

Workplace safety: 

  • Your boss must provide a healthy and safe workplace

  • If you don’t understand instructions or directions – speak up!

  • It is OK to ask for safety instructions to be explained 

  • Say No if asked to do something unsafe  

  • Follow safety policies of the workplace 

  • Work in a way that is safe for you and others

If you are injured at work:

  • Tell your supervisor or manager right away  

  • See a doctor as soon as possible after injury – tell the doctor how you were injured 

  • Ask your doctor for a medical certificate that explains your capacity (if any) to work 

  • Report the injury in writing to your boss within 30 days 

  • Report the injury to the health and safety rep or the union (if you’re a member) 

Rights when your work ends:

It is against the law to be fired unfairly; this includes:

  • Being fired for no good reason

  • Not being given a chance to improve or respond if the process was unfair  

  • Being fired for asking questions about your pay or conditions 

  • Being fired for making a complaint about safety or unfair treatment 

  • Being fired for a discriminatory reason 

  • You only have 21 days to take action if you are fired unfairly!  

Frequently asked questions:

No. You must be paid in Money. You can receive items, like food or clothes, as a bonus but not instead of money. 

Yes, they can, but you MUST be paid for every hour worked. 

Yes! You absolutely must get a pay slip.

At least monthly.

An employer can only deduct money if: the employee agrees in writing and it's principally for their benefit. If your boss is trying to deduct money from your wages, get legal advice before agreeing to make sure it is a lawful deduction!

Cash is legal, but questionable. You will not get in trouble for being paid cash, however, it could mean that your boss is not paying you correctly, possibly not taking tax out of your pay and possibly not paying your superannuation.  

If you are being paid in cash, always make sure you are keeping your own records – write down exactly how much cash you get paid each pay period and how many hours you worked. 


Contact details:


  • Phone: (03) 9749 7720

Study Melbourne Student Centre

  • Phone: 1800 056 449

The 'Employment Rights for international students - presented by West Justice' workshop has been made possible by funding from the Victorian Government through Study Melbourne.

21 October 2022


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