A guide for overseas students on how to avoid exploitation at work

A guide for overseas students on how to avoid exploitation at work in Australia cover image

You must know your work rights when working in Australia and it is even more important for you, overseas students, as you are more vulnerable to exploitation than any other group of workers in Australia. The main reasons why overseas students are more likely to get exploited at work is due to the language barrier, lack of understanding of the workplaces and culture, lack of work experience and most importantly the work limits of 40 hours per fortnight.

Exploitation can be regarding wages (getting paid less money than the minimum wage set out by Fairwork Australia) or forced to work more hours than your visa limitations or not getting the right working conditions for the work you need to complete. Here in this guide, we are going to discuss some of the options you have as a temporary worker in Australia if you are getting exploited at work.

Base rates of pay will increase by 3.5%. The Fair Work Commission has announced a 3.5% increase to award wages and the…

Posted by Fair Work Ombudsman on Thursday, 31 May 2018

✅ Same work rights like other workers

First of all, even as a temporary worker (with 40 hours per fortnight limitation), you have some work rights as a local Australia. Fairwork Australia has set out the National Employment Standards (NES) for the workers in Australia and as an overseas student with a valid work visa entitled you to these standards. If you would like to know more about these standards, check them out here.


✅ Steps you can take to avoid exploitation at work in Australia

Step 1- Speak to your employer

If you are getting exploited at work, the first things you can do is to speak to your senior managers and owners of the business. Sometimes, the line managers and supervisor are not following the business processes and procedures and the senior manager, the owner might be unaware of those wrongdoings. If you believe that this is not going to work or the management is not willing to improve then you will need to follow step 2.

Step 2 – Speak to Fairwork Australia

The second step you can take in order to save yourself from the exploitation at work is to speak to Fairwork Australia. Fairwork Australia is an Australian government agency that looks after the employees at the workplaces in Australia. Their role is to set out the minimum wages, look into the exploitation of the workers and ensuring the working conditions are good for the employees. You can speak to them by calling at 13 14 94 or visiting them on their website.

✅ I worked more than 40 hours per fortnight. Will my visa gets affected if I report my employer to Fairwork?

Lots of students don’t report their employers to Fairwork as they fear that their visa might be cancelled if they do. Luckily, Fairwork Australia and Department of immigration have an agreement in place that if overseas students come forward and report their employers to Fairwork for the exploitation at work, immigration will not cancel their visa even if students have worked more than 40 hours per fortnight. You can read this open letter from the Fairwork Ombudsman to international Students in Australia here.

Studying and working in Australia? A message from the Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James about working here www.fairwork.gov.au/openletterstudents

Posted by Fair Work Ombudsman on Sunday, 24 September 2017

🛑 My employer wants to pay me in Cash. Is it ok?

Getting paid in cash, bank transfer or a cheque is perfectly fine as long as your employer reports these payments to the Australia Taxation Office (ATO). It’s perfectly fine to get paid in cash as long as

– You are getting paid the right wages

– You are working on the books (that is taxes and super reported)

– You are getting a payslip and you and your boss keeping the records

If not, then, this is where the trouble starts. This illegal activity is quite commonly known as “Cash in Hand” in Australia and you should avoid this at all costs.

🛑 My employer asked me to get an ABN for my work. Is it fine?

The reason why many employers these days ask overseas students (especially some industries like cleaning, fruit picking etc) to get an ABN (Australian Business Number) so they can avoid paying superannuation, leave entitlements, taxes and worksafe insurances.

This activity is known as Sham contracting and is also considered illegal in Australia. Only people who run their business needs ABN. Usually, TFN (Tax File Number) is required to work in Australia as an employee. If you are experiencing this situation at work, we suggest you contact Fairwork.

Just because you’ve been asked to get an ABN, it doesn’t automatically make you an independent contractor. Contractors…

Posted by Fair Work Ombudsman on Wednesday, 22 August 2018

✅ Do I need to pay anything to Fairwork Australia for their services?

No, the services provided by Fairwork Australia including education, advice and dispute resolution are absolutely free of charge.