One of the country’s leading industrial relations experts recently called for schools to teach teenagers about their workplace rights before they enter the workforce. The lessons should include how to deal with wage theft, discrimination and sexual harassment.
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at Industrial Relations Claims, said it is currently too easy for dodgy employers to take advantage of young workers starting out in their first jobs.
He said many young workers remain unaware of their basic rights.
He recommends compulsory workplace relations lessons in both high schools and at TAFE.
“Unfortunately, young people are over-represented among workers who are ripped off, discriminated against, and sexually harassed in the workplace,” Mr Heffernan said.
“Knowledge is power, and the more we equip our young people with knowledge, the less vulnerable they are to exploitation. If something unlawful happens in the workplace, they’ll know exactly what they can do about it.”
Mr Heffernan defined wage theft as one of the biggest problems in industries that employ young people, including hospitality, fast food, retail and health and beauty.
IR Claims previously represented a teenage hairdresser who was not paid superannuation or allowed lunch breaks.
In another case, IR Claims represented an apprentice plumber paid half his legal wage and sacked when he complained about it to his bosses.
IR Claims also represented a number of young men who were victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
One received a $30,000 payout after relentless bullying and harassment on the farm where he worked.
A young apprentice painter received $12,500 compensation after his workmates scribbled offensive messages on windows regarding his sexuality.
“Young people are often targeted with sexual harassment, in particular, LGBTIQ teenagers, and sadly, many don’t know what to do about it,” Mr Heffernan said.
“If they learn about these issues and workplace rights at school, they will know that sort of conduct is unlawful, and that there are places you can go to get help to stop it.”
If you have experienced sexual harassment, discrimination or wage theft, please call Industrial Relations Claims for help on 1300 853 837 or visit IRclaims.com.au
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