Questions to ask your employer before starting work

Whilst you are in Australia, you want to be having the best time whilst you are here and you want your working holiday to be super hassle-free, and so do we! To ensure everything runs smoothly it’s best to clarify the terms and conditions of every job you are offered, before you commit to the role.

You wouldn’t book a holiday without knowing where you were going and what was included would you? No! So don’t start a job without getting the same information up front.

In many jobs you attain back home, your employer will provide you with a detailed job description and an employment contract, however this is not the case with most traveller jobs in Australia, so you’ve got to get the facts upfront and make sure its legit!

Use this checklist to ask your employer questions before you start work:
Questions about the job

  1. What is my job title? If you’re planning to get a 2nd year visa extension its crucial you are employed in a ‘specified role’ i.e harvest work or construction. Click here for more information on specified roles.
  2. Do I have a Job Description and Contract? In some roles / businesses you will be supplied with a job description and employment contract. If these documents are supplied, read them thoroughly, sign and return them, and ensure you keep a copy safe and secure.
  3. What is my employment basis? Are you a permanent member of staff, part-time or casual? This will affect your pay rate, hours of work and sick-pay / holiday entitlements. Click here for more information.

Questions about the employer

  1. Who will I be employed by? In some jobs it may not be clear exactly who you’re employed by. For example, with many fruit picking jobs you could be paid by the farmer / a labour contractor / or by the backpacker hostel you are staying at.
  2. What is your company name? Find out the exact name of the company / business. You can check that this business name exists using the Australian Business Register websitewww.abr.gov.au
  3. What is your ABN number? Every legitimate business in Australia will have an Australian Business Number (ABN). You can check the business name / ABN exists using the Australian Business Register website www.abr.gov.au
  4. What is your company address? This information is essential to apply for your tax returnand may be crucial to obtain a 2nd year visa extension. Click here for a list of regional postcodes suitable for 2nd year visa extensions.
  5. What is your company mailing address? This address may be different to the registered business address, so find out.
  6. Who is your Payroll Officer? Find out the contact details of the person in charge of paying you. You may need to correspond with this person to discuss any payroll issues that may arise or to get the information you need to claim a tax return.

Questions about the pay

  1. What wage will I get paid? Clarify with the your employer exactly how much you will be paid for each hour / day / week you work. You want to know how much you will definitely receive each payday. Find out:a.    What is the standard rate per hour
    b.    What is the pay rate for overtime, weekend work, evening work, public holidays

    Note: most fruit picking / harvest jobs are paid a ‘piece rate’, i.e., a $$ amount for each barrel / load you fill. Click here to find out your rights. Many sales-based jobs pay on a commission-basis. If considering a sales job, query any employer that doesn’t offer a guaranteed base-rate.

  2. What are the hours of work? Find out how many hours you are expected to work and if these hours are guaranteed. Many farming / construction jobs cannot be carried out in bad weather, so take this into consideration.  Some farming jobs have a standard 12-14hr day in busy periods, often starting before sunrise and not finishing until after sunset.
  3. What else is provided in addition to my salary? Many farm / home-based jobs such asfarmhands or au pairs include meals and accommodation as part of the package. Clarify with your employer exactly what is included. If you’re traveling to a regional area to start a new job it’s a good idea to ask the employer if they can email you photos of your accommodation.Some roles also provide use of a car and internet access. Get as much information about this as you can as it may make a big difference to your working conditions when you get there.
  4. Trial periods: Most jobs have a trial period in which you and your employer can test each other out. Check in advance to ensure you will be paid for this trial, as many employers do not. For example, many café / bar jobs will have a 1-2 day trial period and sometimes does not pay for this. Free trials are OK if its leads to getting the job; just be sure the length of the trial period and the pay rate (if any) are clearly defined.

Questions about tax and superannuation

  1. Will you pay tax on my behalf? It’s a legal requirement for every employer in Australia to withhold tax from your salary and pay this to the Government. The amount of tax withheld from your salary will depend on your ‘residency status for tax purposes’ and how much you earn.Note: If your employer offers to pay you cash they will not be paying tax on your behalf. Whilst this is common in many jobs for travellers, be aware that it is illegal and Australian employment law does not protect you. You will also not be protected by Workers Compensation if you are injured at work.

    At the end of the financial year or when you leave Australia you may be eligible to claim back much of the tax paid on your behalf – click here for details.

  2. Will you provide me with a PAYG payment Summary? A PAYG Payment Summary is an official document which shows how much you earned during the financial year and how much tax has been deducted from your pay. This document is essential in order to claim a tax refund so ensure your employer can supply it once you finish work. Click here for more information about your PAYG Payment Summary.
  3. What is your superannuation fund? If you earn more than $450 per month, your employer is required by law to pay the equivalent of 9% of your salary into a superannuation fund for you (similar to a pension plan). When you leave Australia you can claim a percentage of your superannuation payments back, so it’s important to know exactly where you money is being paid. Click here to find out more about claiming back your super.

Questions about the place of work

  1. What amenities are in the local area? Many traveller jobs are located in regional areas, sometimes a couple of hours drive from the nearest town. Find out what the local area has to offer and ask what other employees do on their time off.If the job is in a regional area and you are not staying on-site, find out about local accommodation options. What is available, how much will it cost, and what travel options are available between your accommodation and your place of work?

    Its also useful asking if there’s mobile phone reception in the area. If not, ensure your employer is happy with you making interstate phone calls.

  2. What public transport is available? Travel costs to and from some jobs can be expensive and can add hours to your working day. If considering a job in a regional area, find out if bus / train services visit the area. If public transport is not available, ask if your employer will collect you from the nearest airport / train or bus station, and if a car is available for use when you get there. Remember that getting to the job is only half the issue; you also need easy access out of the area once you finish the job.
  3. Have you worked with travellers in the past? Many employers are familiar with hiring working holidaymakers, however for some it’s a new experience. Ask your employer if they’ve recruited travellers in the past and if so, how did it go? If they have working holiday staff there right now, ask if you can speak with some to find out more about the job.
  4. Who else is working there? It’s essential to get an idea of who you’ll be working with. If you’re in a busy city call centre, you could be working alongside 20-30 other travellers. If working as a station hand on a property in the outback there may be just 4 or 5 others for miles around.

Useful notes

  • Phone interviews: If you’re speaking with an employer over the phone and they are not willing to supply the information you need, or if its sounds like they are making it up, then be very weary of the employer. Don’t spend hundreds of dollars travelling to any jobs if you are not confident the employer sounds legitimate.- there are lots of other jobs available.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is:  Be cautious when employers promise you “guaranteed work”, “OTE $150 to $200 per day”, “you must come tomorrow or you will miss out”.
  • Do your research: Google the employer and see what you find. Visit their website and read any online reviews. Be very cautious if you find nothing about the employer.
  • Upfront payment: Some hostels in regional areas may ask you to pay upfront before you arrive and others may ask you to pay for a week without the option to pay by night. If the business is asking you to pay more than a few days in advance or a security deposit of over $50, be weary and consider other options. Some hostels lure travellers into their hostel with promises of ‘guaranteed work’ that doesn’t exist.
  • How can I guarantee the employer and job is legitimate? This is sometimes difficult to do. Using a specialist recruitment provider such as Travellers At Work will reduce any risk, as they speak with and screen employers before posting jobs on their site.
  • Had a good or bad experience? Share it with other travellers on the Travellers At Work Facebook page.

The key to finding a great job in Australia is having the right attitude and using your common sense. Enjoy your trip!