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If you’re an international student planning to work in Adelaide, it is important to know your rights and responsibilities.

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Working on a Student Visa

Your student visa is essential for you to be able to work in Australia. It is important that you understand the working conditions of your student visa.

International students should be aware that: 

  • You can’t work until you have started your course in Australia
  • You can work up to 40 hours per fortnight (part-time or casual) during the semester
  • You can work unlimited hours during semester break
  • Work that forms part of your course doesn’t count towards the 40 hours (e.g. student placements that go towards course credit)
  • If you’ve started your masters by research or PhD, there is no limit on the number of hours you can work

To view the full list of working restrictions, check your visa conditions with the Department of Home Affairs.

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Part-Time or Casual Employment

Part-time employment is an excellent way to balance work with your study. As a part-time employee, you’ll receive the same benefits as a full-time employee on a pro-rata basis. You will generally work regular and ongoing hours and be entitled to annual leave, sick and carer's leave. 

Casual employment gives you more flexibility, but often fewer guaranteed hours than a part-time employee. As a casual employee, you’ll get a higher hourly pay rate, but aren't entitled to paid sick leave or annual leave.

Learn more about working part-time while studying from international student, Parul.

Female student smiling while learning against wall

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Your Rights and Responsibilities

Equal opportunity

It’s illegal to be discriminated against or disadvantaged by race, religion, age, gender, marital status, sexuality or disability. Find out more at the Equal Opportunity Commission.

Workplace Safety

Your employer must provide a safe and healthy working environment. This includes managing hazards and risks and looking after your health and wellbeing in a workplace free from discrimination and harassment. Find out more at SafeWork SA.

Industry Certification

For some jobs, you’ll need an industry certification or licence to operate equipment. For example, to work in security jobs, the gambling industry or childcare, you’ll need a certification. And if you’re operating specific equipment like scissor lifters, you’ll need a licence. Find out more by speaking with your employer.

Unions

You have the right to join a union which can help protect your rights at work (union fees apply). It’s illegal for your employer to stop you from joining a union or to discriminate against you for being a union member. Find out more from the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

Police Checks and Clearances

Your employer may ask for a police record check or a background screening check (especially if you will be working with children, the elderly or in the disability sector).

Your Employer Can’t

  • Bully, harass or discriminate against you (or allow your colleagues to do so)
  • Ask you to do unpaid ‘trial work’
  • Pay you below the minimum wage
  • Pay you in cash without a pay slip
  • Ask you to pay back wages to make your actual pay different to your pay slip
  • Allow you to work more hours than your visa allows
  • Make you sign a contract you have not read or understood
  • Fire you for being sick, injured or pregnant
  • Fire you without proper notice

For more information on what your employer can't do view these resources:

Honesty Pays

You should never agree to let an employer pay you in cash (without a pay slip) or allow you to work more hours than your visa allows.

If you do, you might:

  • Be being exploited by your employer who could be underpaying you
  • Be breaking the law and could be forced to leave Australia
  • Not be protected if you get hurt at work
  • Get into serious trouble for not paying tax

If you think your employer is doing the wrong thing, here are some tips on how to start a conversation with your employer.

You can also contact the Fairwork Ombudsman, which has information available in 30 different languages, for advice and assistance.

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Getting Paid and Paying Tax

If you’re going to work in Australia, you should make sure you know how much you’re going to be paid and understand how the Australian tax system works.

Fair Pay

Your pay rate will depend on the type of work you’re doing. Your pay should be confirmed in your contract of employment, Enterprise Bargaining Agreement, or it might be governed by an industry award.

Your employer should give you a copy of your contract or award. If they don’t, you should ask for it.

You should be aware that:

  • Your employer can’t ask you to work on a ‘trial basis’ for no pay; this is illegal
  • You can only work up to 20 hours per week and have communicated this to your employer
  • You will need a bank account, so your employer can pay you
  • Your employer must pay you the correct amount owed to you
  • Casual pay should be calculated based on an hourly rate, not a ‘session’ or ‘shift’ rate (this could be illegal)

For more information about fair pay, visit Fairwork Australia.

Tax Basics

When you work in Australia, you must pay tax. In order to do that, you will need to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN) with the Australian Taxation Office to provide to your employer.

If you don’t have a TFN, your employer will withhold more of your pay as tax, so it’s a good idea to get one.

Here are some things you should be aware of:

  • You can apply for a TFN online
  • You will need to fill out a Tax File Number Declaration to give your TFN to your employer
  • Your employer will withhold tax on your behalf
  • Your employer must give you a pay slip showing your salary and the tax withheld (if they don’t, you should ask for it)
  • You have to lodge a tax return with the Australia Taxation Office each financial year

For more information on tax, visit the Australian Taxation Office.

Superannuation

If you’re over 18 and earning more than $450 per month (before tax), your employer must pay superannuation (or ‘super’) into your nominated fund. This money grows over your lifetime and provides for your retirement.

This money will stay in your super fund, unless you decide to claim it back when you leave Australia.

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