teens

How to make sure your teenager doesn’t get ripped off in their first job.

It can be both an exciting and scary time when your child lands their first job. You want to send them out into the working world safely but sometimes employers can take advantage. While it’s reasonable to expect that an employer will abide by the law and treat your child with respect and decency, sadly that isn’t always the case.  

As you are likely to have experienced or witnessed in the workplace, not every manager is nice and not every employer is fair.

The magnitude of the issue is reflected in research by Industry Super Australia and Cbus which found employers dodging superannuation payments are pocketing $3.6 billion per year from 2.4 million workers. That’s a lot of employers doing the wrong thing by a lot of people. No doubt many of those impacted are unaware of their loss let alone being able to challenge it.

While of course it’s not just teenagers who are at risk of dodgy employment practices, their inexperience and lack of awareness make them especially vulnerable. Reflect for a moment on how little you knew about your rights when you started your first job. How confident did you feel in challenging people older or more experienced than you?

child doesn’t get ripped off in their first job
"How confident did you feel in challenging people older or more experienced than you?" (Via Getty)

For many kids, entering the workforce is a daunting experience. Not only do they need to learn how to perform in their role, but also how to be a successful member of a team. Among the most important things they also need to learn is what they can and should expect from their employer and colleagues.

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Most kids depend on their parents to help them to understand what is right and wrong in the workplace.  Guidance I have sadly too often needed to provide to my own son who has found himself working for unethical employers. While my overwhelming urge has been to visit his workplace for a ‘chat with the boss’, clearly this isn’t a helpful approach on any level.

All that any parent can do in these circumstances is influence their child to stand up for himself and make wise choices. Influencing the decisions, they make about who they work for, what they expect and how they respond when their rights are violated, requires that you play both the role of coach and advisor. Begin by ensuring your child understands their rights, including these key points:

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"Encourage your child to check their pay slip for accuracy." (Via Getty)
  • The law determines what is a fair minimum rate of pay, not their employer. It’s not OK for their employer to pay them less because they can’t afford or simply don’t want to pay what is required.
  • Nobody has the right to bully, harass or discriminate against them. What this essentially means is it is never reasonable for someone to be aggressive, hostile or intimidating toward them. People aren’t allowed to embarrass, belittle or deliberately undermine them. They never need to put up with missing out on opportunities because of personal attributes that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job; such as their race, gender or sexual preference.

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Check in with your child to ensure their rights are in fact being respected. Four all too common pitfalls to watch out for include these:

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Below award rates.

Award rates of pay for most jobs your child is likely to be employed to do, are freely available on line. The Fair Work website is a great place to start.  Especially useful is the pay calculator that determines junior rates of pay (employees under 21 years of age).  www.fairwork.gov.au

Pay shortfalls.

Encourage your child to check their pay slip for accuracy. Develop their financial literacy and sense of responsibility by teaching them to take notice of what they are being paid for each period of work.

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"Talk to your child about what bullying and harassment means. Encourage them to speak up when they feel they are being treated in ways that make them feel uncomfortable or threatened." (Via Getty)

Tax avoidance.

Help your child to understand how the tax system broadly works and what their employer is expected to do. I’ve been astounded at how often my son has been offered ‘cash in hand’ work that ultimately puts him in a compromised and disadvantaged position.

Bullying and harassment.

Talk to your child about what bullying and harassment means.  Encourage them to speak up when they feel they are being treated in ways that make them feel uncomfortable or threatened. Safe Work Australia provide a useful guide identify and combating bullying.  www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au

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