Gaining employment or accessing training provides valuable opportunities for young people to develop skills, confidence and knowledge in their areas of interest.
Young people also require access to employment in order to achieve individual autonomy, social connection and a reasonable standard of living. Most young people gain employment for the first time between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Lower paid jobs, less skilled occupations and less job security often characterise employment for young people.
As a person who works with young people it’s important youth workers support young people to exercise their rights in the workforce, and help them to access the necessary skills to participate in long-term employment or further training.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics (Nov 2007) Year Book Australia 2005: Young People in Employment.
Applying for and negotiating a new job can be confusing for everyone, but may be especially for young people. Young people may be entering the workforce for the first time, or may have been unemployed for a period of time. Here are some ideas on how workers can support young people in relation to employment.
Applying and Preparing for a Job
If you’re supporting a young person to apply for a job you could assist them to write a resume. You can find resume templates in Microsoft Word. A standard resume template can also be downloaded from www.jobaccess.gov.au (see Resources in this section for the direct link). You could also support the young person by helping them to practice their interview skills.
Some youth services have brokerage available to assist a young person may be able to buy work clothes with. Remind the young person to keep the receipts as their work clothes may be tax deductible. The young person will need to be contactable by phone, particularly with casual work. They will also need to be able to call in advance if they can’t get to work.
Help the young person consider how they will get to and from work, as they will need to plan ahead. Many youth services have access to bus tickets. Bus timetables are available at www.action.act.gov.au or by calling 13 17 10.
Obtaining a Tax File Number
Application/enquiry forms can be downloaded from the Australian Tax Office website at www.ato.gov.au. This form is for people who don’t have a tax number, are not sure if they have one, or don’t know what their tax number is. It must be lodged in person or by mail, with proof of identification. The Tax File Number will be sent within 28 days of lodgement. For young people aged 15 and under a parent or guardian must sign the application.
Opening a Bank Account
Opening a bank account can be confusing – there are different fees associated with different accounts, so encourage the young person to ask questions. You may want to go with them to the bank. Make sure that the young person knows how they can access their account. They will also need to know their Account Number, Account Name, BSB Number and Branch Name, as their employer will request this information.
Being Paid Cash
Being paid in cash ‘off the books’ may be tempting but it can create problems for the young person and their employer. The employer must pay tax and superannuation on the young person’s behalf and provide a summary of tax paid at the end of the financial year. The young person might not be covered by insurance if an accident occurs.
The Workplace Ombudsman states that ‘if a person is doing productive work that is not part of a formal work experience arrangement, they are entitled to be paid for all hours worked. Unpaid ‘trial periods’ are generally unlawful’.
Negotiating and Signing Contracts
Employees’ pay and conditions can be based on awards, collective agreements or individual contracts/Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA). Like the vast majority of adults, young people may not feel confident about negotiating their conditions of employment. Encourage young people to ask questions about their employment conditions, and to consider any contract before signing it. They don’t have to sign on the spot. In an AWA, the employee is required by law to have it for seven days before signing, which gives them time to have someone else look over it. Young people under the age of 18 are required to have a parent or guardian sign their AWA.
If a young person is employed on a casual basis and might be eligible to receive Centrelink benefits, they may want to apply for income support to cover the times they are not required to work. However, if a young person is already receiving Centrelink benefits, it’s important to note their reporting requirements and level of income support may change upon commencing paid work. Different rules apply to different types of payments.
If the young person is receiving Centrelink benefits such as NewStart, Youth Allowance, Special Benefits or Parenting payments, ensure you’re aware of what constitutes a ‘participation failure’ or ‘serious failure’. If a young person receives three ‘participation failures’ in a year their payments may stop for 8 weeks. If they receive a ‘serious failure’, payments will stop for 8 weeks, even if it is their first failure. Examples of a ‘participation failure’ include refusing to provide evidence of job search activities, refusing to attend a job interview without sufficient reason, or refusing to attend a Centrelink appointment without sufficient reason. Examples of a ‘serious failure’ include becoming unemployed voluntarily without sufficient reason, becoming unemployed due to misconduct, or refusing to accept suitable job offers without sufficient reason. Weekly payments are now also available if required. Find more information at www.centrelink.gov.au.
The Workplace Ombudsman sets out rights and obligations for employees, minimum pay rates and rules about agreement making. Employees can make workplace related complaints through the Workplace Ombudsman by calling 1300 714 200 or visiting www.wo.gov.au/asp/index.asp.
Young people can also contact the Youth Law Centre on (02) 6262 7077 for advice on a range of topics, including employment and discrimination.
ACT Children and Young People (Employment) Standards 2009 (No 1)
New laws concerning the employment of children and young people were introduced in the ACT on 17 July 2009. The new laws aim to protect children and young people in employment. The Children and Young People (Employment) Standards 2009 (No 1) guide employers, children and young people and parents on employment rights and responsibilities. The Standards apply to all children and young people under 18 years of age in employment, with specific detail regarding the employment of children and young people under 15 years of age. There are 10 standards.
 Workplace Ombudsman (Nov 2007) Do young workers have special rights at work? Accessed at: www.wo.gov.au
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