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Helping Young Workers Avoid Workplace Headaches

Helping Young Workers Avoid Workplace Headaches

Helping Young Workers Avoid Workplace Headaches

What can you do if your employer suddenly cuts your hours? When are you entitled to sick leave? What are the rules around 90 day trial periods?

These are questions workers of all ages grapple with – but young workers, in particular, are often unaware of their rights or legal obligations in the workplace.

The Young Workers’ Resource Centre (YWRC) is out to change all that.

The non-profit organisation, which works across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, is devoted to helping people aged 25 and under gain fair employment opportunities and secure working conditions.

Caught Unawares

Too many young people are being taken advantage of, says YWRC co-ordinator Tony Stevens.

“There are so many horror stories and a lot of them go unheard because young people don’t step forward and speak out. They don’t know who to contact or what to say.”

Ninety day trial periods (where employees can be dismissed without being able to raise a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal) throw up many problems, Tony says.

“Often dismissals are being done illegally because the employee never received an employment contract or it’s given to them too late.” In one instance, a 21 year-old woman was fired from a bookstore after 89 days but she was never given an employment contract to begin with.

“We negotiated with her employer and managed to get her a settlement that reflected how she’d been disadvantaged without her having to fight the issue through the courts.”
Tony says zero hour contracts were another contentious issue.

“We have seen a number of incidents recently where young workers are expected to be at their employer’s beck and call but have no guaranteed hours. One young man was expected to turn up to a new bar and wait without pay until the employer decided if there was enough work on any given shift.”

Tony says the YWRC advocates on behalf of young people in such situations and encourages them to speak up “not only for themselves but to help set a precedent for others as well”.

YWRC coordinator Tony Stevens with local school students

YWRC coordinator Tony Stevens presenting a workshop to students