Young workers can be vulnerable, so this year the Fair Work Ombudsman is placing high importance on educating employees and business on the myths that are contributing to a concerning number of young Australian workers being underpaid. The Agency is focusing on checking that employers of young workers are doing the right thing and they are likely to enforce action where rights are being contravened.
ABBTF ensures that at all times, apprentice pay rates are made clear to Employers and Apprentices through online publication of pay rates and conditions and featuring the useful Fair Work Quiz on both websites. If you’re in any doubt, contact us in any of the ways provided at our websites.
Fair Work has published a list of MYTHS that need to be crushed and the FACTS that replace them, in order to make it absolutely clear what is paid work and when it applies. I’m re-printing just the myths and facts most relevant to a Bricklaying Apprenticeship but the full list is available in the Fair Work Media Release February 2017:
MYTH 1: Employers can pay young workers as ‘trainees’ or ‘apprentices’ without lodging any formal paperwork.
FACT: Employers must negotiate and lodge a registered training contract for an employee in order to lawfully be able to pay trainee or apprentice rates. An employer cannot pay an employee trainee or apprentice rates just because they are young or new to the job. Sign up your Apprentice
MYTH 2: Paying low, flat rates of pay for all hours worked is OK if the worker agrees.
FACT: Minimum lawful pay rates are mandatory. In many jobs, penalty rates must be paid for evening, weekend, public holiday and overtime work.
MYTH 3: Lengthy unpaid work trials and unpaid work placements and internships are OK for all inexperienced young workers looking to get a foot in the door
FACT: Unpaid work trials are only OK for as long as needed to demonstrate the skills required for the job. Depending on the nature of the work, this could range from an hour to one shift. Internships or unpaid work placements can be lawfully unpaid when they are part of an approved job training or work experience program or vocational placement and the work is done in accordance with the relevant program or placement.
MYTH 4: Employees don’t need to be paid for time spent at meetings or training outside their paid work hours.
FACT: If it is compulsory, then it is work. Employees are entitled to be paid for the time they are required to spend at any meeting or training.
MYTH 5: If a worker has an Australian Business Number (ABN) they are an independent contractor and minimum pay rates don’t apply.
FACT: Having an ABN does not automatically make a worker an independent contractor. Fair Work inspectors apply tests of fact and law to determine whether a worker’s correct classification is as an independent contractor or an employee. Whether an employer has labelled a worker as a contractor and required them to obtain an ABN is not conclusive.
MYTH 6: Pay slips aren’t mandatory – employers only need to give employees pay slips if they ask for them.
FACT: Employers must give all employees a pay slip within one working day of pay-day. Employers can give employees paper or electronic pay slips, such as a link sent via email.
MYTH 7: Employers can make deductions from an employee’s wages to cover losses arising from cash register discrepancies, breakages and customers who don’t pay.
FACT: Unauthorised deductions from an employee’s pay are unlawful. Deductions can be made only in very limited circumstances.
Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. An interpreter service is available by calling 13 14 50 and information on the website is translated into 27 different languages. If you need further help, Bricklaying employers and apprentices can contact ABBTF on 1300 66 44 96 and you’ll be automatically directed to your State office.