It seems like we’ve heard about case after case of wage theft in Australia recently, especially in the hospitality industry. As busy young people, sometimes checking that you’re receiving the correct pay and entitlements can feel like a minefield that falls off the priority list.
However, right now is a perfect opportunity to talk openly about how this can happen to any young worker, and make sure your rights are being upheld.
Pre-emptive steps to take
- Consider joining your union
Workers have more bargaining power when they stand together as a collective. Joining your union and ensuring that your workmates sign up too is really important. Your organiser can provide further assistance and guidance if you have any workplace issues.
- Use the Fair Work Ombudsman pay calculator
This is a basic calculator that requires you to enter a couple of factors like your job title, age and whether you’re a part-time or casual worker, to find your award minimum wage and entitlements like penalty rates.Be aware that this is a general pay calculator for industry award rates, and does not factor in working for an organisation with a collective agreement, which may have different rates. If your workplace has a collective agreement, make sure you have access to it! You may find it online, in the break room or on the work computer database.
- Be sure to keep records
It’s important to ensure that you’re holding onto payslips in case you have any issues. If you work for an employer who is not providing payslips (which is illegal in itself), keep any communications about pay (whether it’s emails, texts or Facebook messages) you have from your employer about your shifts and document the times you’re working in a diary.
Oh no, I think my wages are being stolen!
- Talk to your co-workers
Social norms have conditioned us to believe that it is inappropriate to discuss your pay with your co-workers. I always recommend to young people I’m presenting to that they discuss workplace issues they’re experiencing, including pay and harassment, with their co-workers. Often they discover that they’re not the only person experiencing wage theft, and a collective approach can be much more useful.
- Tell someone you’re close to and can trust
These issues can feel particularly overwhelming and lengthy when you’re dealing with them alone. Make sure you reach out to someone you trust, like a family member or close friend, so that you’re not carrying the burden alone and can take care of yourself.
- Get help
If you’re a member of your union, you can contact your organiser or the member contact centre for advice. Victorian workers under the age of 30 can also contact the Young Workers Centre on 1800 714 754 for free and confidential legal advice.
- Speak to the boss together
As mentioned earlier, a collective approach is most useful and the least daunting. If you are going it alone, remember you can bring a support person with you to have the conversation.Let them know about the information you’ve found about your pay, entitlements and your expectations. Be sure to follow up with your boss in writing, including the questions you asked and request that the issue be resolved informally. This means that if nothing is done to rectify the situation, you have written proof of your meeting and correspondence with them.
If the above steps haven’t worked, this is where it gets tricky. If you haven’t already spoken to your union or the Young Workers Centre for advice, now is a good time. Your next option might be to take your evidence to the Fair Work Ombudsman.
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