MEDIA RELEASE: Proposed industrial relations reforms put young workers’ rights at risk

MEDIA RELEASE: Proposed industrial relations reforms put young workers’ rights at risk

In a joint submission on the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2020, the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), the Tomorrow Movement and the Young Workers Centre (YWC) say proposed changes to Australia’s industrial relations law could weaken young workers’ bargaining power, expose them to wage theft, and make it even harder to find secure work.

“If this industrial relations bill passes, casual young workers in hospitality and retail industries hardest hit by COVID-19 shutdowns last year will be worse off. Changes to the Better Off Overall Test, the definition of casual employment and taking away overtime for part-time workers will make it harder for young people to pay the rent each month,” said Kelly Fawcett, FYA’s Research & Policy Lead.

Young workers’ experiences of wage theft

The joint submission highlights case studies of how young people are already disproportionately exposed to wage theft. The submission supports national wage theft laws, but expresses concerns that Australia-wide protections should not weaken state-based wage theft protections such as those recently passed in Victoria. 

“I have worked in jobs which did not pay me for overtime, or have any wage increase incentives, yet still put the pressure on for me to deliver high quality work,” said 27 year-old young worker Lucinda.

“It felt like the cards were always in their hands, and I was scared to even speak up, or have the conversation, in fear of retribution,” she said.

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on young people’s futures

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, young people have been overrepresented in some of the industries hardest hit by job losses. Research shows that young people may experience the negative impacts of the pandemic for up to a decade, resulting in lower wages, higher likelihood of overqualification for jobs and higher rates of youth unemployment and underemployment.

“As essential income supports such as JobKeeper and coronavirus supplements for JobSeeker are taken away, leaders need to take urgent steps to ensure young people can access safe, secure and meaningful work,” said Cat Nadel, National Director of the Tomorrow Movement.

“The Australian Government must put young people’s futures first when planning the COVID-19 recovery, not introduce new laws which strip away young workers’ rights, when we’re already bearing the brunt of this crisis,” said Ms Nadel.

The Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment is due to provide its report on the bill to Parliament by Friday 12 March, 2021.

For further information contact FYA’s Youth Media Centre Lead Isabelle Tolhurst via 0423 777 904 or