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Young workers

Compounding the issues faced by many migrant workers is their age. Student visa holders account for the largest proportion of temporary entrants to Australia that may choose to look for work. There are around 355 755 student visa holders in Australia1 , and it's estimated that about half are working or looking for work.2

More broadly, young workers were involved in 28% of the workplace disputes we assisted with. They are overrepresented in disputes, given workers under the age of 25 account for about 15% of the Australian working population3. Similarly, young workers were involved in 44% of the court cases commenced. We recovered over $1.4 million in underpayments for 723 young workers.

Figure 3: Proportion of disputes the FWO helped to resolve by young workers, 2014–17

Figure 3 shows the proportion of disputes the FWO helped to resolve by young workers, 2014–17

Young people in their early working life often need extra support navigating the workplace relations system. To assist young workers, the FWO:

  • Launched the Record My Hours smartphone app. Available in multiple languages the app enables employees, in particular young and migrant workers, to quickly and easily record the hours they work on their mobile device. The app serves as a backup record should any concerns regarding pay arise. These records can be especially useful in the many industries, such as hospitality, where shifts can be irregular and employees finish up when the customer flow begins to reduce, rather than at a set time. The app’s functionality is further explained in Online services.
  • Released the findings of our National Apprenticeship Campaign that checked the pay and employment records of 2266 apprentices. Businesses were selected based on FWO dispute data and data from the Department of Education and Training. Seventy eight per cent of the 822 businesses audited met record-keeping and pay slip requirements and 68% paid their apprentices correctly. The activity recovered $339 433 in underpayments for 323 apprentices, with an average recovery of $1051 per apprentice. Fifty four formal cautions, seven compliance notices and five infringement notices were also issued.
  • Entered into memorandums of understanding with the Government of South Australia, Department of State Development and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority to share information that will assist in the effective regulation of apprenticeships and traineeships.
  • Ran a National Apprenticeship Initiative in which we emailed and text messaged 2352 first-year hairdressing apprentices and 1794 of their employers a link to information on common workplace issues in the industry including pay rates, pay slips, hours of work, breaks and unpaid work. The initiative is ongoing and as new apprentices sign up they are sent these communications.
  • Conducted compliance activities to gather data and address non-compliant workplace practices in Wollongong. Retail and hospitality businesses in the region were targeted following media reports of an alleged culture of underpaying students. In addition to audits of businesses and engagement with students, we engaged with the Illawarra Business Chamber to provide education on workplace rights and obligations.
  • Addressed common workplace misconceptions, identified as prevalent among young workers and their employers, by publishing a series of common myths and tips for young workers on the FWO website, issuing a media release and posting on our social media channels. The combination of these activities resulted in 6502 views of the myths and tips webpage, over 780 000 views of the social media content and received associated radio coverage.


  1. DIBP, Student visa and Temporary Graduate visa programme bi-annual report ending at 31 December 2016 external-icon.png, page 7, accessed 14 August 2017.
  2. ABS, Characteristics of Recent Migrants, Australia, Nov 2013, cat. no. 6250.0, Labour Market Outcomes external-icon.png , accessed 4 September 2017.
  3. The approximate proportion of employed persons aged 15-24 has been derived from dividing the number of employed persons aged 15-24 by the total number of employed persons at the same point in time (30 June 2017). ABS, Labour Force Australia, June 2017, cat. no. 6202.0 external-icon.png , accessed 14 August 2017.