Your rights at work - Katie's story

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I got my first job at the fish and chip shop just round the corner from my house. This lady and her husband run it and only a couple of other people work there. I started keeping a work diary for one of my subjects at school. It turned out to be a really good, becasue I had a record of what had been happening and could get some advice about it.

Week one

Just started my new job today and it seems ok. I’m only on for a couple of three-hour shifts this week so it’s nothing too stressful yet.

I thought it was a bit funny because the lady who runs it didn’t ask me for my bank details or tax file number or anything. I’m not worried about getting super because I’m not 18 - I'm only 15 - but I thought there’d be at least one form I’d have to fill out.

Ha! Never thought I’d be having a whinge about not having to fill in forms.

Week two

Found out today that I’m working what they call a ‘trial period’ at the fish and chip shop so they’re not going to pay me yet. The lady said I could eat what I wanted at the end of each shift but she couldn’t pay me because I hadn’t learned how to do everything so I wasn’t a proper employee.

I didn’t think that sounded right so I told Mum and Dad about it when I got home. They weren’t too happy with the place anyway because the lady made me stay back and clean out the fryer and the counter and everything for half an hour past the time I was supposed to finish.

Week three

So I’ve been working at the fish and chip shop for three weeks now - that’s probably six or seven shifts. Dad went down to the shop on Saturday and talked to the lady. She agreed to start paying me, but only $8 an hour - cash. And that only started yesterday - I didn’t ask her about paying me for the shifts I’ve already worked.

Haven’t had a chance to talk to the other guy who works there, the only one who’s not part of the family who owns it. He and I never seem to be rostered on at the same time, he always gets there just as I’m leaving and it’s too busy to stop and chat. He looks even younger than me though - I don’t think he’s even turned 15.

Checked out the JobWatch website (new window) and found out some things about unpaid trial work. It said it’s illegal, so I called the Fair Work infoline (new window) and they gave me heaps of advice.

Week four

This has been a real eye-opener for me – I mean, I didn’t know anything about work, this being my first job. I found out from the JobWatch website (new window) that only 13% of people doing unpaid trial work were offered paid work at the end of their trial. So you could say I was lucky, but if Dad hadn’t stepped in I probably still wouldn’t be getting paid.

The lady at the fish and chip shop could be up on a few charges, like failure to provide minimum terms and conditions of employment and misleading conduct. But I don’t want to get her into trouble! I just want to be paid for that work I’ve done, and be paid at least the legal minimum rate for my age.

So I took a whole heap of info that Job Watch gave me and showed it to the lady at the fish and chip shop. I told her I wasn’t even asking for all the other stuff she was supposed to give me like pay slips and tax paid on my behalf. But I did tell her I’d report her if she didn’t pay me for the trial shifts I worked.

Week five

When I turned up for my shift at the fish and chip shop tonight the lady wasn't there, but her husband handed me an envelope stuffed full of money - the pay they owed me for my trial shifts.

I counted the money and it's the proper minimum wage, too, plus some extra money to make the difference between the $8.00 an hour they've paid me for the other shifts and what I should have been getting paid.

(I know exactly how much that is because I called the Workplace Infoline and they worked it out for me. There's NO WAY I could have worked it out for myself - even Dad was confused by all the different awards and stuff!)

I'm really glad my Dad was there to help me and to encourage me to stand up for my rights. All of the organisations we contacted were really helpful, too. Now I can stop worrying and concentrate on normal things like saving up for those jeans I saw in town on Friday night!