Further advice given to students and backpackers about pay in Australia

by Ray Clancy on November 28, 2017

in Jobs in Australia

Officials in Australia are again warning backpackers and students working while in the country that they should be aware of unscrupulous employers paying them less than a legal wage.

In the latest case to be highlighted by the Fair Work Ombudsman, the owners of a café and a shop in Melbourne are accused of paying three overseas workers as little as $11 an hour, resulting in almost $45,000 in underpayments.


The minimum wage in Australia is currently $18.29 per hour or $694.90 per 38-hour week before tax. Casual employees covered by the national minimum wage also get at least a 25% casual loading.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that two employees at the Photo Plus photography and phone shop and cafe Bread Kingdom were underpaid a total of $45,950 for various periods of work in 2016.

A Chinese worker who was on a 417 working holiday visa and an international student from Taiwan were allegedly underpaid $6920 and $12,578 respectively for work at the Photo Plus outlet. The third worker, a Chinese national who was on a 462 work and holiday visa, was allegedly underpaid $25,452 for work at both the Photo Plus and Bread Kingdom outlets.

The workers lodged underpayment allegations with the Fair Work Ombudsman after allegedly being paid flat rates of between $11 and $14 for all hours worked. Under the applicable Awards, they were allegedly entitled to receive more than $19 an hour, plus casual loadings, for ordinary hours and higher rates for weekend and public holiday work.

The workers have now been back-paid in full but Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said that young people from overseas need to be aware of what they are entitled to. A key factor in the decision to commence legal action in these cases was that in 2013 the agency had identified pay slip issues at Photoplus Australia during a proactive audit campaign.

‘Businesses need to understand that we do come back and check that our advice is being followed. Operators who ignore the agency and continue to operate unlawfully can expect to find themselves in court. Employers should also be aware that we treat exploitation of vulnerable workers particularly seriously,’ James explained.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recently published an open letter to international students to encourage them to seek free help from the agency if they experience any issues while working in Australia.

‘We are seeking to raise awareness among international students that in line with an agreement between the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, you can seek our assistance without fear of your visa being cancelled, even if you’ve worked more hours than you should have under your visa,’ James added.

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