Photo: Young workers
fear the reaction from employers if they report unsafe work
practices. (ABC Radio Canberra: Hannah
The peak ACT union body claims new research shows half of all
young workers in Canberra have been employed in unsafe
Unions ACT said 70 per cent claim to have been bullied or
harassed at work.
Report key findings:
- Half of people aged 15 to 25 have been placed in
working conditions that are unsafe.
- 70 per cent of young workers have experienced bullying
or harassment while at work.
- Awareness of workplace safety rights, policies and laws
- Young women report experiences of sexual harassment
while at work.
- Young workers report fears and pressure from employers
to not report unsafe practices.
- 60 per cent of workers aged under 18 had experienced
bullying or harassment.
The research was based on interviews with about 260 people aged
15 to 25.
Unions ACT secretary Alex White said the findings underlined
the need to better educate young people about their rights at
“The combination of unsafe working conditions and harassment
goes hand in hand with other problems including underpayment
and cash in hand,” Mr White told ABC Radio Canberra.
Preying on inexperience
Surveyed workers revealed they were not being paid correctly,
undertaking unpaid trial shifts, not receiving pay slips or
“When we see unsafe practices with an employer, we often also
see very unscrupulous practices — preying on the inexperience
of young workers,” Mr White said.
“The feedback that we got from young workers is that they
felt they are being taken as mugs, that they are being
exploited by their employer.
“It might be a co-worker that is conducting the bullying or
harassing behaviour and when the young person reports that to
their employer, they are subject to victimisation.”
being paid cash in hand and not receiving superannuation
One worker reported their pay was reduced when they reported
unsafe work conditions to their employer.
Another survey participant claimed they had a reduction in the
number of shifts made available to them after reporting unsafe
“We’re not saying that every employer is bad, we know that
there are a lot of small business owners out there that do the
right thing,” Mr White said.
“But there are a lot that don’t.
“We’re talking about children and young people who don’t have
the experience or knowledge that an older worker would have
to stand up against this kind of behaviour.”
Unions ACT claim that as many as 3,000 workers in the territory
are seriously injured every year.
“We know from injury statistics that young workers are up to
two or three times more likely to face a serious injury at work
than the rest of the workforce,” Mr White said.
“We’re not talking about paper cuts and stubbed toes, we’re
talking about injuries that have people taking at least a week
Unions ACT said it would work with regulators and the
Government to improve protections for young workers.