Are your work rights at risk?

Australia is a great place to study and work. But, sometimes you might notice something at work that feels wrong. It may be a sign that your work rights are at risk.

Are your work rights at risk?

As an international student, you have rights in the workplace. These rights deserve to be protected. Here are some warning signs to be aware of.

You get paid in food and housing

  • It is illegal for employers to offer food or housing in place of money. Free food is fine but only if it is on top of your pay.
  • Do not accept other forms of payment. Tell your employer you must be paid money for your work.

You are asked to give back some of your pay

  • If an employer pays you the correct, legal amount and then asks you to give some of your pay back in cash, this is a "cashback scheme". This is not allowed.
  • Sometimes you may accidentally break something at work, customers may leave without paying, or the cash registers are short. Employers can't take money out of your pay to cover this.
  • Do not let employers take money for breakages or theft. Employers are only allowed to take money out of your pay if you agree to it, if the agreement is written down and you benefit from it.
  • Do not give back money in a cashback scheme. If you have paid back money like this, it is considered a deduction and you are entitled to get the money back.

You do not get your payslips

  • This means you have no record of the hours you work and how much you get paid.
  • Make sure you always receive a payslip (hard copy or electronic) within one working day of getting paid.

You are asked to apply for an ABN

  • An ABN is an Australian Business Number. Generally, you need this if you are working for yourself.
  • Always check if you really need an ABN. For jobs where you report to a boss or manager, you need a TFN – a Tax File Number instead.

If you see any of these warning signs, talk to your boss or contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for help. There is free advice in multiple languages for anyone working in Australia. Phone - 13 13 94 | Online -

Useful resources

Download and print the 'Are your work rights safe - warning signs' poster, flyer or diary insert. Available in A3 (PDF 2.3MB), A4 (PDF 3MB) and A5 (PDF 1.5MB) sizes. 

State and Territory workplace assistance

If you are having trouble at work but are unsure what help is available, the state or territory flyer below describes the services they offer.

Workplace issues case studies

Conversation starters

Having a conversation with your employer about your workplace rights can be a hard thing to do, but it doesn’t have to be. This short animation and flyer can help you prepare for difficult conversations.

Download the conversation starters (PDF 520.3KB) flyer for help.

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