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Your Rights

Before You Start Work

Before You Start Work

There are some things you should know and be prepared for before you start working. Knowing this information will make sure you’re protected and run into fewer issues when you start working.

At what age can I start working?

You can start working at any age. There is no minimum age to start working but there are some limitations on when, what and how you work if you are of a certain age. These are to ensure your safety and that you are able to fully participate in school whilst you’re school-aged.

Can I do any job I want as a young person?

As a young person, there are some jobs you’re not allowed to perform. Some of the main restrictions are:

  • If you’re under 15, you can’t be employed to operate heavy machinery, drive a vehicle, lift heavy loads or undertake work that is likely to cause you harm;
  • If you’re under 16, you normally can’t work during school hours or between 10pm and 6am;
  • If you’re under 18, you can’t work in a restricted area of a licensed premise like bars, clubs and licensed restaurants;
  • If you’re under 20, you can’t carry out jobs that relate to gambling.

Do I have to tell employers about my criminal convictions?

If you’re applying for a job and you’re asked if you have a criminal record, you don’t have to tell your employer about any convictions for minor offences that have been wiped by the Clean Slate Act or if your case was decided by the Youth Court without an adult criminal record. All other criminal records must be provided to your employer.

Note that there are some specific government departments, professional bodies, companies or organisations that work with vulnerable people that may be able to gain access to your criminal records including some that have been wiped by the Clean Slate Act or were decided by the Youth Court.

Do I need an employment agreement?

An employment agreement or contract sets out the terms and conditions that guide your employment relationship. If you’re an employee (even if you are casual or part time), you must have a contract.

It’s important to ask for one if you don’t have one because, without a written agreement, it can be very difficult to prove what you and your employer have agreed to. If you ask and aren’t given a copy of your contract within a reasonable time, then you can complain to a Labour Inspector.

What must be included in my employment agreement?

An employment agreement must include the following terms:

  • The names of you and your employer;
  • A description of the work you’ll be doing, your position and the type of employee you are;
  • Where your workplace will be;
  • The times that you’re expected to work;
  • The wages or salary that you’ll be paid;
  • How to resolve employment problems– a plain-language explanation of the services available for resolving employment relationship problems;
  • Rates for public holidays– a requirement that you must be paid at least time and a half if you work public holidays;
  • Protection in restructurings– a clause stating how you’ll be protected if your employer’s business is restructured.

How much will I be paid as an employee? What is the minimum wage?

If you’re aged 16 or older, you’re entitled to at least the adult minimum wage of $23.15 per hour before tax, unless:

  • you’re a “starting-out worker” or trainee worker, in which case the minimum wage is $18.52 per hour before tax, or you hold a minimum wage exemption permit issued by a labour inspector because you have a disability that affects your ability to do the job.

If you’re under 16, there is no minimum wage guarantee and you’re paid whatever has been agreed between you and your employer.
There is no minimum wage for contractors.

You and your employer can agree to be paid more than the minimum wage.

The minimum wage may be updated every year.  Please check this page to confirm the current minimum wage.

When am I considered a “starting-out worker”?

You’re a “starting-out worker” if you are:

  • 16 or 17 years old and yet to complete six months’ employment with your current employer; or
  • 18 or 19 and you’ve been on a benefit for six months or more, and you’ve yet to complete six months’ employment with any single employer since you started being paid the benefit; or
  • between 16 – 19 and you’re doing at least 40 credits a year of industry training as part of your employment agreement.

However, if you’re supervising or training other workers, you’re entitled to be paid at least the adult minimum wage.

When am I considered a trainee worker?

You’re a trainee worker if you are:

  • aged 20 or older; and
  • doing at least 60 credits a year of industry training as part of your employment agreement.

Does my employment agreement have to be in writing?

Yes, your agreement has to be in writing. Every employee must have a written employment agreement. Your employer must keep a signed copy of the agreement and must give you a copy whether you ask for one or not. An employer who doesn’t keep a copy of the agreement can be fined by the Employment Relations Authority.

If you don’t have a copy, you can request for one in writing. If you still don’t get one, you can make a formal complaint to a Labour Inspector. Contact YouthLaw or your local community law centre for more information.

What are my rights if I don’t have a written agreement?

You have legal rights as an employee even if you don’t have a written employment agreement – a verbal agreement between you and your employer is still legal.

The terms and conditions of your employment relationship will include:

  • terms and conditions you’ve agreed to verbally;
  • normal practices in your workplace
  • protections for employees in the Employment Relations Act;
  • minimum conditions guaranteed by Acts like the Holidays Act and the Wages Protection Act (see the chapter “Employment conditions and protections”);
  • safety protections provided by Acts such as the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

Where can I get help with the costs of job hunting?

WINZ can help beneficiaries moving into paid work, through Assistance to transition to employment. This helps fund the costs of:

  • work clothing or tools;
  • travel costs or an outfit for job interviews;
  • relocation (if you find a job in another town or city);
  • your living expenses until your first pay;
  • an interpreter.

You don’t need to pay this money back if you’re eligible.

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