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«May 2012 Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people This booklet covers what you can and can’t do because of your age Am I old enough? ...»

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You can’t work in door-to-door sales, in the building and construction industry or in deep-sea fishing. You can’t sell alcohol in a bottle shop, hotel or restaurant until you’re 18 unless you’re on an approved training program.

Becoming independent How many hours can I work?

If you’re under 15, the employer can hire you to work for no more than three hours a day and 12 hours a week during school term. During the holidays you can work for no more than six hours a day and 30 hours a week. These hours include rest breaks.

The employer can only get you to do work between 6 am and 9 pm.

Also, if you work in street trading, such as at a fruit stall or mobile food van, you can’t work between 6 pm and 6 am.

Am I old enough?

Common legal issues for young people The employer must give you 30 minutes for a break after every three hours you’ve worked and give you at least 12 hours’ break between finishing one shift and starting the next. Variations can be granted to these restrictions if they are in your best interest and won’t be harmful.

Are there any restrictions about doing work experience?

If you’re over 14, an employer can only give you work experience for up to 10 days a term but no more than 40 days a year. The employer can’t make you work for more than 10 days in one work experience placement. If you’re under 15, the employer will need to give you special forms to fill in. You might not be able to do certain work (such as with animals or money) and you may need a Child Employment Permit. Structured Workplace Learning students need to be 15 years or older.

There are guidelines for selecting work experience placements.

Speak to your work experience co-ordinator for more information.

What is an employment contract?

Once you get a job, your employer may ask you to sign an employment contract. This is a legally binding document that sets out your conditions of work. Your rate of pay depends on your age.

Never sign an employment contract until you have read it, understood it and agree with it. It’s a good idea to get advice before you sign an employment contract, even if you think you know what you’re signing.

Make sure you keep a copy of the contract for yourself.

Sometimes an employment contract is oral (spoken) and not in writing.

You have a right for the employer to tell you the amount of pay before you take the job.

If you have questions about employment contracts, pay and conditions, being sacked unfairly or other work problems, get advice quickly.

See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 31.

What is ‘cash in hand’ work?

Sometimes your employer might want to pay you cash in hand. This means that the employer does not take any tax out of your pay and that you won’t have to do a tax return. It can feel like you’re earning more money.

Be careful. You might have trouble if something goes wrong and you try to get help with it. For example, you might go to the Fair Work Ombudsman to get wages back because you were paid less than the minimum wage or you might want to go to WorkSafe to make a claim for an injury. When you do that, the government may find out that you

worked cash in hand. This could lead to problems with:

• Centrelink – if you get a benefit and haven't told them about the work, you could owe them money, or even be charged with an offence • the Australian Taxation Office – if you haven't paid tax, you might owe them money • visas – if your visa says you’re not allowed to work and you do, you could be charged with an offence or even have to leave the country.

Also, because the employer didn’t keep a record of your work (for example, payslips) then the employer may deny that you were ever employed (though witnesses could disprove this). As well, cash in hand means the employer won't pay you a superannuation contribution. If you work for years, you could miss out on quite a bit of superannuation. Superannuation is a part of your pay that your Becoming independent employer passes on to your superannuation fund. The idea is that this money builds up over your lifetime, from employer to employer, so there is money for you when you retire.

Am I old enough?

Common legal issues for young people Unpaid trial work Unpaid trial work is when an employer gets you to work, without pay, to see if you are right for the job. Sometimes employers get young people to do unpaid trial work just to get free labour to see them over a busy period like a long weekend. Unpaid trial work happens in many jobs, but is common in sales and in the hospitality industry. Unpaid trial work is against the law.

Discrimination and workplace safety Discrimination, unsafe work environments, sexual harassment, workplace violence and bullying are against the law. If these issues affect you there are people who can help. Contact the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Helpline or JobWatch for advice.

See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 31.

Remember Make sure you read any contract you’re asked to sign. Keep a copy. Don't sign it if you don't understand it. Tell the employer you'd like to take the contract away to think about it and get advice.

There are minimum standards that apply to all Australian workers, no matter what you agree to in your contract. As well, you may have extra entitlements. It can depend on what type of job you do. Contact Fair Work Australia to find out if you’re getting your minimum entitlements. If you aren’t, the Fair Work Ombudsman may be able to help you get them.

See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 31.

If the employer fires you and you think it was unfair, get help quickly.

Strict time limits apply. You have 14 days from your dismissal to apply for an unfair dismissal. See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 31.

Am I old enough to open a bank account?

You can open a bank account at any age. You need more than one form of identification, like your birth certificate and photo ID. Ask the bank what kind of ID they need from you. If you have a tax file number, tell the bank. If you don’t give the bank your tax file number, you may be taxed at a higher rate by the Australian Taxation Office.

Paying tax and getting a tax file number How much tax will I pay?

Some of the income that you earn each year is tax-free. This is called the ‘tax-free threshold’. You can only claim one lot of tax-free income, so if you work part time and get Youth Allowance, you can only claim the tax-free threshold for either your part-time income or your Youth Allowance income.

Your employer will send you a payment summary after the end of the financial year (30 June). This shows how much you earned in that year and how much tax you paid.

Do I have to do a tax return?

If you work and earn more than the tax-free threshold in one financial year (July to June), then you must put in a tax return. If you’re under 18 and earn money from investments you may need to put in a tax return. Contact the tax office to check. See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 32.

If you earned less than the tax-free threshold in the financial year and Becoming independent the employer kept some of your pay as tax to pass onto the tax office, you can put in a tax return and get some of that money back. This is called a ‘tax refund’.

The tax office has a booklet called TaxPack. It tells you how to fill in your tax return. You can get a copy from the tax office or any newsagent.

Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people

What is a tax file number and why do I need one?

The tax office gives you a tax file number and it’s yours for life, even if you move states, change your name, live overseas for a while or get a new job.

You need a tax file number when you:

• start going to university on HELP (Higher Education Loan Program) • open a bank account • get a Centrelink payment • join a superannuation fund • put in a tax return.

It’s a good idea to get a tax file number if you start working. If you don’t, then your employer has to keep almost 50 per cent of your wages in tax to be passed onto the tax office.

How do I get a tax file number?

You can get an application form for a tax file number from the tax office (see ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 32) or newsagencies. If you’re under 16, you need two forms of ID, like your birth certificate or citizenship papers with proof of residence, and a recent school report. If you’re over 16 you need three forms of ID.

If you’re still at school, you can apply through your school to get a tax file number.

Am I old enough to leave home?

You can leave home if you want to when you turn 17. If you leave home before you turn 17 and someone thinks that you might not be safe or that you might get hurt, they can report this to the Department of Human Services.

If the department is concerned for your safety, it can ask the Children’s Court to make an order to protect you. The order can say where you’ll live and whom you’ll live with.

The department probably won’t take you to court if you:

• have somewhere decent to live • have enough money to live on • are mentally healthy • aren’t involved with drugs, under-age prostitution or any other illegal activities.

If there are serious problems at home, the department probably won’t force you to go home if you don’t want to. The court may order that you live somewhere else, like with another family or in a residential home with other young people.

See also ‘Violence and sexual assault’ (page 37), ‘Family breakdown – what will happen to me?’ (page 42), ‘What happens if a child is being abused or neglected?’ (page 43).

Finding a place to live Emergency housing You might be able to get emergency housing for a little while if you urgently need somewhere to live. See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 32.

Renting If you’re under 18, you can rent a house or flat (there are age limits on when you can leave home, see page 32). Centrelink might also give you a payment called Rent Assistance.

Becoming independent You usually have to sign a lease when you rent a house or flat. This is a contract between the owner (the landlord) and you (the tenant). Make sure you read and understand the lease before you sign it. The landlord or real estate agent (representing the landlord) should also give you a booklet explaining your rights as a tenant.

Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people

You also have to pay a ‘bond’. This is usually a cash payment of one month’s rent. You will usually give the bond to the owner or real estate agent who then sends the bond to the Residential Tenancies Bond Authority. The authority then sends you a letter to tell you they got the bond. Keep this letter. You’ll get the bond back when you move out if you’ve paid your rent and kept the place in good condition.

The landlord or real estate agent should give you a ‘condition report’ when you start your lease. You and the landlord or real estate agent both fill in the report, agreeing on what condition you both think the place is in at the start of the lease. The report is used when you move out to check to see if you have taken care of the place and whether they should give you back your bond.

The owner of the property is responsible for getting repairs done to maintain the place. You can get help if this isn’t done.

If you don’t pay the rent you may be evicted (thrown out). If you damage the place, the owner may keep your bond money. To do this they have to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Residential Tenancies List. Contact the Tenants Union of Victoria if you’re in this situation. See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 32.

Centrelink, allowances and payments When you turn 17, if you’re unemployed you can register with your local Centrelink office. Centrelink is a government organisation that can give you money if you don’t have financial support. If you aren’t sure if you can get Centrelink payments, it’s always best to apply.

Centrelink will look at your income and assets (assets are things that you own, such as a car or property) and work out if you’re eligible for financial help. If you’re under 18, Centrelink may also look at your parents’ income and assets. If you’re living with your partner, Centrelink will look at their income and assets. If you’re eligible, the type of payment and how much you get depends on your circumstances.

If you’re unemployed, you can register with your local Centrelink office even if you’re not eligible for an allowance. By registering you can use a range of job search services.

Below is a description of different Centrelink payments. It’s just a summary so if you need more information call Centrelink. See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 32.

Youth Allowance This is for young people who need financial support while studying,

training or looking for a job. Centrelink may give you Youth Allowance if:

• you’re a full-time student aged 18 to 24 • you’re doing an Australian apprenticeship full-time and you’re aged 16 to 24 • you’re aged 16 to 20 and are looking for a full-time job or you’re combining part-time study with looking for work.

Centrelink may consider you to be ‘independent’ and they may give you a higher rate of Youth Allowance if you’re aged over 22 (this is the age of independence from 1 January 2012) and are a full-time student or apprentice.

If you’re under 22 you might still be considered independent if:

• you’re an orphan, in state care (or have stopped being in state care because of your age), or you are a refugee or homeless • your parents can’t provide a home, care or support • you have a dependent child Becoming independent • you’ve supported yourself by working (there are conditions that you need to meet) • you have been legally married, in a registered relationship, or living in a de facto relationship.

This can be complicated. Get legal help. See ‘Where to get help’ on page 83.

Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people

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