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Young people rights and responsibilities in the workplace

Young employees form an integral part of any thriving business. As more young people begin to take a proactive approach towards resolving issues within the workplace, it’s important they also have a good understanding of best practices and policies. 

During a typical workday, your average worker may experience any number of discriminatory practices. That’s why, the key for young employees is to recognize unfair conditions, and strive to correct any discrimination before it becomes a norm in the company environment. 

Here’s a look at some rights and responsibilities that young people should be aware of: 

Working Hours 

Up until a certain age, there are rules that apply to how many hours and how late or early a person may work. There are also special policies to protect young workers in school from having to work during school holidays and exam time. 

In Australia, the youth unemployment rate is currently over 12% and children under the age of 18 may face employment restrictions on both the federal and state level. For instance, those under the age of 18 in Queensland can only work four hours on a school day and 12 hours during a school week. Those numbers increase to eight on days when a child does not have school and 38 in a week in which a child does not have school. 

In Victoria, anyone under 15 is considered a child, and he or she is not allowed to work before 6 am or after 9 pm. They are also entitled to 30-minute breaks every three hours, and are only allowed to perform light work. 

You can check the government website to check the exact requirements for your state. 

Wage Issues 

The national minimum wage applies to individuals over a certain age. Generally, young people should be paid at least the minimum wage for their services. An individual not receiving a fair wage should contest this with the company and contact the human resources department. 

As of 2017, the Australian minimum wage for adults is $17.70 per hour for employees, and adult apprentices make between 55 and 70 percent of that rate. However, the minimum wage that a minor can expect to earn depends on their age. 

While a 16-year-old can expect to make roughly 37 percent of the adult minimum wage, a 20-year-old can expect to make 97 percent of the adult minimum wage. If an individual works at a classification greater than his or her typical classification for four or more hours in a day, he or she must be paid the higher rate for the entire shift. 

There are also specific requirements for paid time off and sick days. Every employee has the right to call in sick within a reasonable amount of time, and can't be penalized for missing work due to sickness. Some companies may also offer incentives to help pay for education courses, but this is not a requirement. However, these policies can vary for different companies. 

Those who are under the age of 18, may be entitled to superannuation payments. 

Employers are required to contribute to a minor worker's fund if he or she makes $450 or more in a calendar month and worked more than 30 hours in a week. The superannuation contribution is mandatory for the employer and is equal to 9.5 percent of his or her earnings before taxes. 

The Australian government takes employment violations seriously, and employers who violate the law may face financial or legal consequences. By learning and understanding your rights, it is easier to hold companies accountable for any illegal actions that they may take toward minor workers. 

Health and Safety 

The employer is responsible for making working conditions safe for employees. However, employees are also responsible for reporting unsafe working conditions. As an employee, you must use the correct tools and methods to complete tasks, avoid putting others at risk of injury, wear suitable clothing and report any accidents to your lead. For example, lifting heavy objects using incorrect form is a form of violating your workplace responsibilities and you can be reprimanded or written up for unsafe practices. 

Sexual Discrimination and Harassment 

Sex discrimination can also have a dramatic effect on young people in the workplace. Young workers rights and responsibilities include protection from discrimination on the basis of sex. This may apply when a policy places people who are married, single, pregnant or potentially pregnant at a disadvantage. A direct example includes a manager that starts a men's only bonus, or creates an instance where only older men can participate in a company incentive. 

Sexual harassment is a different type of discrimination. It refers to any unwelcome sexual advance, and may include requests for sexual favours. If it makes the recipient feel unwelcome, intimidated, offended or humiliated, then it may qualify as sexual harassment under the Sex Discrimination Act.

Employer Responsibilities 

Employers have the responsibility to develop a written document that states acceptable policies in the workplace. It is the responsibility of each employee to review these policies and make certain they conform to the stipulated laws and regulations.

Employees should have a way to complain about any procedure or practice within a company without fear of retaliation. Any employer that makes assumptions about a young worker based on their age, sex, group or race is violating basic workplace principles. 

About the author: Wassana Lampech is a member of the Small Business First community. She’s a medical technology graduate and a freelance writer. She has been writing since her college days, and has been a freelance writer for the past 4 years. You can follow her on Twitter here.

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