A student’s rights at work – need to know

Last updated: July 15, 2020

Everyone working in Australia, including international students or those on working holiday visas, have basic rights at work. These rights protect entitlement to:

  • a minimum wage
  • challenge of unfair dismissal from the job
  • breaks and rest periods
  • a healthy and safe work environment.

Most employers in Australia are covered by an ‘award’, which sets minimum wages and conditions for a given field of work or industry. To find out more about your students work rights go to the Australian Government’s Fair Work website.

Students pay

Australia has a minimum wage. Your students must be paid at least this amount – it’s the law.

Paying tax

If your students are working in Australia, they might need to pay tax depending on how much they earn. Get a Tax File Number (TFN) from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) before they begin working. Your students need to give their TFN to their boss to make sure they don’t pay more tax than they should. They only need to apply for a TFN once – it is theirs for life! Depending on how much they earn during the year, they may be eligible for a tax refund. At the end of the financial year, which ends on 30 June, your students must lodge a tax return to the ATO. They may receive a tax refund. Visit www.ato.gov.au or call 13 28 61 for further information.


In Australia, workers must get a payslip within one working day of getting paid. Normally workers get paid weekly, fortnightly (every two weeks) or monthly. The payslip is an important document.

Casual work

In Australia they will find many casual roles. In casual work, your students won’t have a fixed number of hours every week. The hourly rate of pay is usually higher because they don’t get paid holidays or paid sick leave.

Work hours

Remember – as an international student on a sub-class 500 visa your students can usually work up to 40 hours every two weeks during term time, and unlimited when their course is not in session. It is important they keep to this limit – it is what they agreed to when they were given their student visa.


If your students work in Australia as an international student, are over the age of 21 and earn $450 or more per calendar month, they may be entitled to superannuation – which is the Australian form of pension. Their employer is usually required by law to pay money into a superannuation or retirement saving account for them. These superannuation guarantee contributions must be at least 9.5% of their ordinary earnings. International students who have worked in Australia are eligible to access their contribution once they leave Australia permanently, by applying for a DASP (Departing Australia Superannuation Payment) through the ATO.

Fair Work Commission

The Fair Work Commission is the national workplace relations tribunal. It is an independent body with power to carry out a range of functions relating to:

  • the safety net of minimum wages and employment conditions
  • enterprise bargaining
  • industrial action
  • dispute resolution
  • termination of employment
  • monitoring of subclass 457 visa holder’s employment terms and conditions.

Workplace Rights

Australia has strict laws relating to employment conditions. Everyone working in Australia has basic rights at work, including international students, such as:

  • receiving a minimum wage
  • protection from unfair treatment or dismissal
  • breaks and rest periods during long working hours
  • a healthy and safe work environment.

Equal opportunities must be provided to all workers in Australia. It is illegal to disadvantage anyone in the workplace on the basis of race, religion, age, gender, marital status, sexual preference or disability.

Your student’s employer can’t cancel their visa, even if it’s been breached because, for example, they’ve worked beyond the 40 hours per fortnight that their visa allows. Only the Department of Home Affairs can grant, refuse or cancel visas.

The Fair Work Ombudsman website has lots of information, specifically for international students about their rights and responsibilities in the workplace. Search for Fair Work Ombudsman and international students.

For more information go to the Fair Work Commission website – https://www.fairwork.gov.au/