The extent of how young people in Australia on student and working holiday visas are being exploited by rogue employers has been laid bare with more cases going to court.

In one case young people from overseas working in retail kiosks in Melbourne were underpaid while others working in gourmet burger outlets in Brisbane were paid just $10 an hour.


The Fair Work Ombudsman is bringing more and more cases to court and has warned young people who work while they are studying and also during their backpacking holiday, to make sure they know what the minimum wage is.

The national minimum wage 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. It is reviewed on an annual basis by the FWO's expert panel.

Melbourne couple Haim Tomer Diamond and Rina Diamond have been penalised $30,600 and $40,000 respectively in the Federal Circuit Court for underpaying overseas workers on student and working holiday visas employed at two retail kiosks in shopping centres. Some were paid just $7.86 an hour.

Judge Hartnett found that the contraventions were 'clearly deliberate' and Mrs Diamond was singled out for her lack of genuine contrition, and for threatening one of the workers. He found that she had threatened to notify the Department of Immigration and Border Protection that one international student employee had been working more than the 20 hours per week allowed under her visa unless the student withdrew her complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

When Fair Work inspectors received an underpayment allegation and investigated, Mrs Diamond further contravened workplace laws by knowingly providing inspectors with false and misleading records.

In a separate case the FWO has begun legal proceedings against the owners of Miel Container outlets for allegedly underpaying eight workers on student and working holiday visas at Brisbane CBD and five at Sunnybank.

The FWO investigated the situation after being contacted by the workers. Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah explained that a decision was made to commence legal action because of the blatant nature of the alleged underpayments and the involvement of vulnerable overseas workers.

'We treat exploitation of overseas workers particularly seriously because we know they can be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their rights, face language barriers or are reluctant to complain. We are committed to actively pursuing and holding to account any employer in Australia who thinks they can get away exploiting overseas workers,' she said.

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,' she added.