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Fair Work Ombudsman debunk 10 myths around labor laws in Australia

From not having to be paid for after work meetings to being required to buy a store’s products, there are dozens of myths surrounding Australian employment laws.

Most workers are well-aware they must be paid for all hours worked, however the lines may seem blurred when it comes to attending work meetings or training sessions after hours.  

Fair Work Ombudsman has debunked the top ten workplace myths and how employees can ensure their rights aren’t being violated. 

MYTH: Your employer can pay you what they want, or as little as they want, as long as you are okay with it  

Employers are mandated to comply with minimum wage laws, as well as penalty rates for hours worked on nights, weekends, public holidays and overtime.  

If specific changes need to be made to an employee’s award or registered agreement, both parties can agree to an Individual flexibility arrangement. 

However, this arrangement cannot be used to reduce the worker’s pay, under the law.

MYTH: You don’t have to be paid for attending work meetings or training sessions that take place after hours

If an employee is required to attend a work-related event after hours, it is still considered work, under Fair Work regulations. 

Employees must be paid for all hours worked, even if they take place outside of regular business hours.

This includes after work meetings, training sessions, or other compulsory events. 

MYTH: You must buy your company’s products, such as clothing or food, while you’re employed there

It is illegal for employers to force staff to buy the company’s products.

While most retail stores offer workers an employee discount to encourage them to buy and wear their products, staff are not required to do so.  

Fair Work regulations state employees cannot be obligated to buy a store’s clothes, accessories or food.  

MYTH: If you or a customer damages something at your job, employers can make up for the loss by taking it out of your paycheck

Employers are not allowed to make any wage deductions without notifying the employee first and there are limited situations in which deductions can be made, such as adding payments to the worker’s super fund. 

Employees must be in agreement the deduction must comply with their award and the law.     

MYTH: You don’t have to be paid for work trials or internships if you’re a young inexperienced worker 

All employees must be paid for their hours of work even if they are just in a trial or training period of a new job. 

Unpaid trials are OK only when prospective workers are being evaluated for a new position or are being tested for their skills.    

‘Depending on the nature of the work, this could range from an hour to one shift,’ Fair Work regulations state.

For example, if someone is interviewing for a job as panel beater they may be asked to demonstrate their skills that day and do not have to be paid for that time.  

MYTH: You don’t need to be paid for time spent opening and closing a store

All hours dedicated to work, even if it is outside the business’s operating hours, must be paid under Fair Work regulations. 

If an employee is required to be at work at 7am for an 8am opening, they need to be paid from the time they started their shift

MYTH: You can be paid ‘trainee’ or ‘apprentice’ rates just because you are young or new to the job 

In order pay an employee trainee or apprentice rates, employers must lodge a formal training contract with the state for these workers, by law. 

Under a traineeship, workers are allowed to study for a certain qualification for the job while they work. 

Traineeships cannot be done on a casual basis.  

MYTH: You don’t have to be paid wages if your employer is paying for your food, drink, or other expenses

Fair Work regulations state payment-in kind is illegal. Employees must be paid monetary wages through check, cash, or electronic transfer, for all hours worked.

An employer cannot make up for wages by paying for an employee’s food, drinks, or other expenses.

MYTH: You are considered an independent contractor and are exempt from minimum pay rates if you have an ABN

Having an ABN does not automatically make someone an independent contractor, according to Fair Work Regulations. 

A number of factors differentiate an independent contractor from an employee, but all are considered by Fair Work inspectors when assessing 

Contrary to most employees, independent contractors have a higher level of control of their work, in addition to different hours and benefits. 

They typically use their own tools and equipment, pay their own tax and GST, don’t receive paid leave.    

MYTH: You only need to be given pay slips if you ask for them 

All employers are required to provide their employees with a payslip within one day of their pay day.

Pay slips can be produced on paper or electronically.   



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