Legal Rights and Workplace Protections for International Student Employees

Navigate your workplace rights as an international student in Australia. From visa rules to Fair Work Act protections, ensure a positive job experience.

Published on: Jul 5, 2024

Australia has been a perfect destination for international students not just because of its high-quality education but also because of the numerous career opportunities it provides in various industries. Further, these students play a vital role in Australia's workforce, bringing their skills to different industries. However, whether you seek full-time or part-time jobs in Australia, understanding your rights and protections at work in Australia can be daunting.

But there is nothing to worry about, mate. This blog is to give you a glimpse of your legal rights and workplace protection in Australia. So, let's delve into the blog and explore it together.


Understanding Your Legal Rights

Do you know why you should know your rights as an international student in Australia? Well, it is crucial for every student who comes from abroad to study in Australia. Understanding your rights helps you protect yourself from any unfair treatment together, ensuring that you get treated fairly, especially when looking for Australian part-time jobs for students.

In particular, knowing your rights boosts your confidence to speak for the wrong. Also, it allows you to make wise decisions about your job and feel more secure in your workplace. It's your key to a positive work experience and enjoying your time studying in Australia.


Legal Rights Of International Students Employees

1. Visa Restrictions and Work Restrictions: Every international student must understand their visa and work rights. Well, as an international student, you might be holding a student visa to study in Australia. But do you know that your visa comes with specific conditions regarding work rights? According to the Department of Home Affairs, international students here can only work up to 48 hours per fortnight during their semesters. However, you can work unlimited hours during your semester breaks and holidays. Also, if you are studying master's by research or a PhD, you will have unlimited hours to work. There will be no such limitations to your working hours. Furthermore, it is crucial to check your visa conditions to ensure compliance and avoid any penalties when looking for part-time jobs in Australia.

2. Fair Work Act 2009: The Fair Work Act 2009 is the primary legislation protecting workers' rights in Australia. Whether you're looking for full-time or part-time jobs as a student, your rights are protected under this Act. In fact, it covers important areas like minimum wages, working hours, leave, and how employment can be terminated. As an international student, you have the same protections under this law as Australian citizens and permanent residents. Some key protections under the Fair Work Act include:

• Minimum Wage: There is a national minimum wage that applies to everyone, including international students. As of July 2024, the minimum wage is $20.33 per hour or $772.60 for a 38-hour week (before tax).

• Pay Rates: It is important to make sure you are being paid the right amount according to your employment contract and the Fair Work Act. Pay rates can be different depending on the job and your experience level.


Workplace Protections For International Students

1. Protection Against Discrimination: In Australia, it is against the law to treat someone in the workplace based on factors such as race, sex, disability, and nationality. International students are also protected by these rules, which means working here as a student, you will have the right to work in a place where everyone is treated equally without any discrimination. Here are some examples of discrimination, including in Australian part-time jobs for students.

At work can include:

• Not being hired or promoted because of your nationality or ethnicity.
• Being treated badly or bullied because you're an international student.
• Getting paid less or having worse conditions than Australian workers doing the same job.

If you feel like you're being treated unfairly, you can tell the Australian Human Rights Commission about it or get advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

2. Health and Safety Regulations: Working in Australia as a student, you will have a healthy and safe environment to work in. In fact, the Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) regulations aim to protect employees from hazards. Together, it ensures a safe working environment for employees. Employers in Australia have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace, including:

• Providing necessary training and protective equipment.
• Conducting risk assessments and implementing safety measures.
• Reporting and investigating workplace incidents or injuries.

3) Entitlements to Leave: Under the Fair Work Act, employees in Australia are entitled to various types of leave, including:

• Annual Leave: Paid leave is provided for recreation purposes, accrued based on the length of employment.
• Sick Leave: Paid leave is provided for employees who are unable to work due to illness or injury.
• Parental Leave: Unpaid leave available to eligible employees for the birth or adoption of a child.

As an international student employee, you may be entitled to these leaves depending on your employment status and the duration of your employment. It's essential to understand your leave entitlements and notify your employer in advance when taking leave.


Common Workplace Issues Faced by International Students

Immigrating to a new place or working in a new setting sometimes brings issues for international student employees. Let's uncover those issues:

(i) Unpaid Wages: Sometimes, employers don't pay international students for their work or pay them less than they should. It mostly happens to see part-time jobs for students in Australia. It's important to keep track of your hours worked and check your pay slips to make sure you're paid correctly. Furthermore, students facing this issue can ask for help from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

(ii) Unfair Layoff: Unfair layoff happens when you lose your job without a good reason or without being told in advance. In Australia, employers must follow fair procedures before letting someone go. If you believe you've been unfairly dismissed, you can get advice from the Fair Work Commission or a legal service.

(iii) Bullying Harassment: Some international students may face bullying or harassment at work because of family or cultural background. This can include being treated badly, made fun of, or excluded. It's important to know that this is not okay, and you can talk to your employer or a support service like the Australian Human Rights Commission for help.


Steps to Resolve Workplace Disputes

If you encounter any workplace issues, follow these steps. They will help you resolve the disputes:

• Raise the Issue with Your Employer: Discuss your concerns with your employer calmly and professionally. Document any discussions or agreements made.

• Contact the Fair Work Ombudsman: If you are unable to resolve the issue directly with your employer, contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for advice and assistance. They can provide information on your rights and help resolve disputes through mediation or investigation.

• Seek Legal Advice: Consider seeking legal advice from a qualified employment lawyer if the issue remains unresolved. Many legal aid services offer free or low-cost consultations for international students.


Resources and Support Services

1) Government Resources

Government resources provide official information and support for international student employees in Australia. These resources are crucial for understanding your rights, resolving disputes, and accessing assistance when needed.

• Fair Work Ombudsman: It provides information and advice on workplace rights and obligations, including pay rates, leave entitlements, and resolving workplace disputes. You can visit their website or call their helpline for assistance.

• Department of Home Affairs: The website of the Department of Home Affairs in Australia offers all information on visa conditions and work rights for international students in Australia. You can visit their official website to learn about the visa conditions or part-time jobs for students in Australia rights.

2) Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) offer independent support and advocacy for international student employees in Australia. Together, it focuses on issues like fair treatment, workplace rights, and resolving employment disputes.

• Migrant Workers' Centre: It provides specialised support and advocacy for migrant and international student workers facing exploitation or unfair treatment.

• Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU): It represents the rights and interests of Australian workers, including international students, advocating for fair wages, safe workplaces, and equal treatment.

3) Educational Institutional Resources: Educational institutions in Australia provide valuable resources to support international students. These services often include employment guidance, counselling, and legal clinics tailored to meet the needs of international students. For more details, reach out to your university or college's international student services office.



Navigating the Australian workplace as an international student can be challenging, but understanding your legal rights and workplace protections, including part-time jobs for students in Australia, is essential for a positive employment experience. By familiarizing yourself with the Fair Work Act, workplace health and safety regulations, and available support services, you can protect your rights and address any issues that may arise effectively.

Remember, if you encounter any workplace issues or have questions about your rights, don't hesitate to seek advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman, legal services, or your educational institution. Stay informed, assert your rights, and contribute positively to Australia's vibrant workforce.

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