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New & young workers


If you’re a young person looking to start work, or an employer thinking about taking on a young worker, you need to understand your respective rights and responsibilities around work health and safety and employment conditions.

Young workers can be vulnerable and at increased risk of workplace injury due to lack of experience, maturity and awareness. They may also be:

  • still developing their skills, competencies and physical capabilities
  • unaware of their rights and responsibilities
  • unaware of their responsibilities and the duties of their employer regarding work health and safety
  • unfamiliar with appropriate workplace behaviours
  • reluctant to make requests, ask questions or speak out about problems
  • overly keen to please and make a good impression
  • over-confident of their capabilities.

Here are some issues to consider.

Work health and safety

Under our work health and safety laws, an employer is known as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). A PCBU has a primary duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of their workers is not put at risk from the conduct of the business or undertaking.

This duty also applies to others in their workplace, like clients, visitors, customers and volunteers.

A PCBU is required to provide:

  • a safe work environment
  • safe plant and structures
  • safe systems of work
  • safe use and handling of plant, structures and substances
  • adequate facilities to support the welfare of workers
  • information, training, instruction and supervision
  • monitoring workers’ health and workplace conditions to prevent illness or injury of workers.

For workers

Before starting work in a new job you should be inducted and trained to ensure that you are able to work safely. Your PCBU should have policies and procedures in place in relation to health and safety issues, and must ensure that you are adequately supervised.

You also need to take care of your own safety and the safety of others. You should never be forced to do anything that is unsafe. If you become aware of an unsafe situation, stop the work and report it to your supervisor immediately.

For PCBUs

You need to provide new workers with sufficient information, instruction, training and supervision to ensure that they are competent to work safely. An induction into the business, including working through your current policies and procedures, is a great way to convey safety standards and expectations to new workers.

Minimum working age

There is no minimum working age in South Australia. However, a child of compulsory school age, which is between 6 and 16 years of age, cannot be employed during the hours that they are required to attend school. Nor are they allowed to work at a time, such as late at night or early in the morning, that is likely to render them unfit to attend school or obtain the proper benefit from such attendance.

Pay and employment conditions

There are two sets of laws that establish pay and employment conditions in South Australia. South Australia’s private sector employers are in the national workplace relations system covered by the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

Private sector employees should refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman website for information. The website includes an electronic Pay Calculator tool to help find the correct pay rates, award and conditions of employment, such as sick leave and annual leave. It also contains specific information and advice to assist businesses that employ young workers.

South Australia’s public sector and local government are in the state industrial relations system covered by the Fair Work Act 1994 (SA).

To find out which workplace relations system applies to you, contact our Help Centre on 1300 365 255.

Traineeships and apprenticeships

A traineeship or apprenticeship involves agreeing to, and signing, a training contract. The contract contains a number of specific training conditions and responsibilities for both workers and PCBUs.

Specific advice should be sought as part of a pre-employment checklist.

A number of government and non-government organisations can provide information and advice on traineeships and apprenticeships for both workers and PCBUs. Start by checking the WorkReady information or the Office of the Training Advocate.

For workers

Anyone thinking about doing a vocational education and training (VET) in schools traineeship or apprenticeship, should get advice and information from their school VET co-ordinator, as well as discuss their plans with a parent or guardian.

For PCBUs

If you are employing a young worker as part of a VET program, you should consult with the student, the school VET co-ordinator/broker and the young worker’s parent(s) or guardian.

Workers or PCBUs experiencing problems should contact the appropriate traineeship or apprenticeship authorities or advisors before taking any action.

Probationary periods, work experience and trial work

A probationary period can be used to assess a worker’s suitability for the job. It’s not a separate period of employment and so a probationary worker should receive the same pay and entitlements as someone who isn’t on probation.

Work experience is the term usually given to a work placement associated with a young person’s education. Many high school students will undertake unpaid work experience as part of their school curriculum. TAFE and university students also do work placements as part of their course, and these are typically not required to be paid. Most other forms of work experience are no different to trial work.

For workers

Unpaid work trials should only occur if it’s necessary to evaluate your suitability for a job. They should only consist of you demonstrating your skills relevant to the job’s required tasks or observation of others performing the work.

For PCBUs

Unless it is part of an education or vocational placement, anyone undertaking any form of work experience or trial work that would normally be undertaken by a paid worker and that is of direct benefit to your business should be paid the legal minimum pay rate for that type of work.

Workplace behaviour

Young workers, particularly those starting a job for the first time, are usually unaware of how to deal with inappropriate workplace behaviours like bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Workplace policies should be implemented to manage these hazards and it’s important that young workers be aware of them.

Workplace bullying is not acceptable. The risk of it occurring can be eliminated or minimised by proactive approaches and policies that create a co-operative anti-bullying culture within a workplace.

Workplace bullying does not include reasonable and lawful direction or management action to direct and control the way work is carried out.

For workers

If you experience discrimination or harassment, or are being bullied at work, you must report it to your supervisor or manager. If for some reason you can’t report it to them, you should contact our Help Centre on 1300 365 255 or the Fair Work Commission on 1300 799 675 for information and assistance.

For PCBUs

​Be aware that some young workers may be afraid or reluctant to speak up about discrimination, harassment and bullying, until it’s too late. It’s vital that you create an environment where young workers feel comfortable raising these issues.

Help and advice

Other information and services for South Australians you might be interested in are:

Further resources can be accessed from our Library catalogue.