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Combining study and work

CHAIR —I now welcome all students in attendance to today’s hearing. We have to say some formal things now for the official record. As you are aware, the committee is conducting an inquiry into how students combine school with part-time work. We are interested to hear about your experiences and any views you may have about how to improve the situation for students who are trying to balance those two demands. We have been receiving feedback on these issues from many students across the country through our student survey on the website—some of you may have participated in that. Many students are telling us that they are coping fine—their work commitments are reasonable, they manage it quite well and they can balance the demands—but there are a significant minority who are telling us about real issues they have which make it tough. These are things like late working hours—doing shifts that finish at 12 or one o’clock at night; and long shifts—so three or four nights in a row. There is also some discomfort about asking for time off or talking to employers about not being available for shifts in things like that.

The committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, but this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. We have Hansard recording the proceedings today. I would ask, as I indicated earlier, that each of you when you are making a contribution just repeat your first name before you make a comment into the microphone. To make it easier we will start from the end. I will ask each of you to indicate your name, your school and year and what your experience with part-time work is: have you got a job, how many hours it would be, and whether it is in fast food, retail or any other sector? Please give us some information about your situation.

Dr JENSEN —And whether you are coping with the number of hours that you are working.

CHAIR —Yes, how you find the balance.

Mitchell —My name is Mitchell. I attend the Australian Technical College, North Brisbane. I am currently employed as a school based apprentice for Brisbane CityWorks as a signals apprentice electrician. We do four weeks at college and four weeks at work. We keep rotating. I find I am coping extremely well with that, because while you are at work you are not required to do any college work and while you are at college you are not required to do any tasks for work. So it is broken up really well.

CHAIR —So when you have done your four weeks of college and then your four weeks at work, you do not carry over assignments or anything like that during that time?

Mitchell —I have once, but it was only a little bit of work. It is nothing that will impact in a major way.

CHAIR —Okay. Thank you.

Tomas —My name is Tomas. I also attend the Australian Technical College, North Brisbane. I currently have an apprenticeship at Kedron-Wavell Services Club as an apprentice chef. I am currently coping extremely well with going to school and going to work at the same time. There are no real difficulties because of the four-week blocks.

CHAIR —So you are in the same pattern of four-week blocks?

Tomas —Yes, we are all in the same pattern. It is fine. We do not usually have any problems with anything.

CHAIR —Neither of you have part-time jobs outside of that?

Tomas —No, because of our apprenticeship. You cannot really get another part-time job as you are only at school for four weeks and then you go back to work.

CHAIR —Okay. Thank you. What do you do?

Adam —My name is Adam. I attend the Australian Technical College, North Brisbane. I am a year 12 student and I am studying cabinet making. I am currently employed at T.M. O’Brien Cabinet Making in Clontarf. I am fairly happy with the hours that I work there.

CHAIR —You are in the same pattern of four weeks on, four weeks off?

Adam —Yes, for weeks on, four weeks off. It is good.

CHAIR —You like that pattern?

Adam —Yes.

CHAIR —Okay. Thank you very much.

Paige —My name is Paige and I currently attend Grace Lutheran College at Rothwell. I have a part-time job at Woolworths at Redcliffe. I work between nine and 12 hours per week.

CHAIR —When would you do those hours? What is your usual shift?

Paige —Friday night and Saturday.

CHAIR —So four hours on a Friday night?

Paige —Five hours on a Friday night. On one week I have more hours than the other on a Saturday night.

CHAIR —How do you find that number of hours?

Paige —They are fine. They are good.

CHAIR —Is there any pressure to do additional hours? Do you get calls to do extra shifts or anything like that?

Paige —I do, but my boss is really good—I do not have to do them if I do not want to.

CHAIR —So you are quite confident to say, ‘No, I can’t do it’?

Paige —Yes.

CHAIR —Good. Thank you.

Hannah —Hi, my name is Hannah, and I go to Grace Lutheran College, Rothwell. I am currently in year 12. I work at Prouds Jewellers, Peninsula Fair. I work maybe three to seven hours a week, depending on when I get put on shift.

CHAIR —When would your shifts normally be? What is a normal week?

Hannah —I might work a Thursday night and get the weekend off, or I will get the Thursday night off and have to work on the Saturday.

CHAIR —Right. Is that a good number of hours for balancing work and your homework and stuff?

Hannah —Yes. I have talked to my boss about it, and she is only putting me on for that many hours so that I can do all my studies and all my work, yes.

CHAIR —So you do not get calls from her to do additional shifts or things?

Hannah —No.

CHAIR —Not at all? Okay. Thank you.

Matthew —My name is Matthew. I attend Grace Lutheran College at Rothwell. I am in grade 12. Currently I do not have a part-time job. I had a part-time job for a year and a half at a fish-and-chip fast food restaurant, but I finished that at the beginning of grade 11, last year.

CHAIR —When you say you finished it, did you decide that you could not keep doing it, or what happened?

Matthew —Yes, I decided that I would stop working at the fish-and-chip restaurant because I could not keep it up.

CHAIR —How many hours were you doing?

Matthew —During school time I was doing probably 12 to 15 hours a week, but with sporting commitments it was too hard with senior school.

CHAIR —So you made a decision to stop at that point in time?

Matthew —Yes. I have done a holiday work, and that works fine.

CHAIR —Okay. So, when the holiday break is on, you pick up some work then?

Matthew —Yes. I did a part-time job over the Christmas holidays.

CHAIR —Okay. Thank you.

Maddison —My name is Maddison. I am a student at Grace Lutheran College, in year 12. I do have a part-time job at a chicken shop. I just work a Saturday every week and sometimes every two weeks, and that is just for nine hours—and I do not have any additional shifts.

Dr JENSEN —So they do not put any pressure on you to do anything else?

Maddison —Not at all, no.

Ashlee —My name is Ashlee and I am a student at Southern Cross Catholic College. I do not currently have a job. I did have a part-time job at the start of the year but due to school commitments and sporting commitments I decided not to work there anymore, because it was just too hard to fit everything in.

CHAIR —What sort of work were you doing?

Ashlee —It was in retail.

CHAIR —And what sorts of shift hours were you doing?

Ashlee —I would do a Saturday and a Sunday, so I did not really have any weekend time, because it was probably from nine till five on both those days.

CHAIR —Yes. Thank you.

Lincoln —My name is Lincoln. I am in year 12 at Southern Cross Catholic College. I currently work at the local convenience store, and I work about four to seven hours a week—just two afternoons a week and three-hour shift on a weekend.

CHAIR —So they must be quite short shifts in the afternoons.

Lincoln —Yes, they are two-hour afternoon shifts.

CHAIR —Straight after school?

Lincoln —Yes, 4.30 pm—so I have got an hour and a bit to get home.

CHAIR —And is there much pressure to do additional work, or are they quite comfortable with the hours you do?

Lincoln —Yes, they are quite comfortable with the hours that I do.

CHAIR —Okay. Thank you.

Nick —My name is Nicholas. I am at Southern Cross Catholic College and I do part-time work at McDonald’s at Peninsula Fair Shopping Centre. I do anywhere between three and 12 hours a week.

CHAIR —What sorts of shifts do you do?

Nick —Since we are in a shopping centre, we close pretty early, so I would work from about four o’clock till 6.30 on a school day and then, on a weekend, I could do a shift from nine till one.

CHAIR —Right.

Dr JENSEN —Any pressure on you to do additional shifts?

Nick —I told them I would rather work just one school night a week but I am happy to work if they actually need someone to fill in, because it is not a really big shift.

Dr JENSEN —So do they pressure you with that?

Nick —I might get called in to work once every three weeks or so, so it is all right.

CHAIR —And, if you or one of your work colleagues cannot do a shift, do you have to replace yourselves or does the supervisor follow up on that?

Nick —If we need a shift, we can call work and ask them to help out, or we tell them when we are working that we need to swap a shift, and they will invite us to stay back and they will help us find a replacement.

CHAIR —Okay. Good. Thank you very much.

Zuzanna —Hello. My name is Zuzanna and I attend Southern Cross Catholic College. Currently I work at a cafe. I work an average of 10 hours a week, and it is pretty good.

CHAIR —What sorts of shifts are you doing?

Zuzanna —On weekends I do half-days—say, from seven to one, normally.

CHAIR —Okay, thank you. I think we also have teachers here with us. For the record would you like to indicate who you are?

Ms Niebling —I am Judith Niebling from Grace Lutheran College. I am the year 12 coordinator.

Mr Tilly —My name is Steve Tilly. I am the year 12 coordinator at Southern Cross Catholic College in Scarborough.

Mr McDonald —I am David McDonald, cabinet making teacher/trainer with the Australian Technical College in North Brisbane.

CHAIR —Thank you. Most of you have indicated that the system is working quite well. Some of you are doing paid work as part of your training and qualifications. Others are doing paid work outside your school commitments and study as an additional thing in your life for income. We are interested in some of the experiences not only ones that you have had directly, but ones that your peers or friends may have had as well. So if there are particular things you can tell us about that from either direct experience or from amongst your group of friends that would be really useful for us.

Mrs D’ATH —I guess I am just interested to hear what you think can be done to create more flexibility. Do you believe there needs to be more flexibility in the school system to allow for work and school? What information can be given to students to know their rights more when it comes to work?

Tomas —I think it is fairly fine at the moment, but we should be informed a lot more about our rights and the regulations. Because we are new to the workforce it is a little bit frightening to know what your rights are at work.

CHAIR —Do you think that is best for the school to do or should we be supporting employers to do it more? Where do you think would be the best place to have that conversation?

Tomas —I think a bit of both. Our school does it a bit but I would not be sure about other schools. We do not get to bring it up a lot because usually when we are at school we are doing a lot of schoolwork.

CHAIR —Just following up on Tomas’s point, those of you who have part-time jobs put your hand up if you can tell me whether you are employed under an award, an enterprise agreement or a contract? Put your hand up if you actually know what your employment type is—so just under half are confident about that. Put your hand up if you know where to go to check whether you are being paid the right amount of money per hour? Four of you.

This is one of the big issues and why Yvette asked about this. Now don’t be particularly concerned. We could have a group of adults sitting here, who have been working for 20 years, and ask them the same question and they would probably have the same response. But for you, being under 18, there are specific rules and requirements around your employment that you should know about, and if you are going to say no or have to talk to your employer you can do it with more confidence if you know the facts and what is reasonable or not reasonable. So I think your point is important, Tomas. If it is structured in schoolwork we tend to be better at providing you with information, don’t we, about your rights and responsibilities? Whereas, when you are working outside school maybe we leave it a bit too much to your own connections and ability to get information. It is a good point.

Mrs D’ATH —I am interested in anything that you want to say on this topic of work-school balance. Don’t wait until a specific question is asked. Please put to your hand up as we want to hear from you. Do any of you participate in volunteer work? One of you does. My question is whether you think it would be beneficial to have the school or a future employer recognise the volunteer work that you have participated in.

Paige —Work are pretty good with that kind of stuff. I told them that now netball has come back on I volunteer down there, and also with Rotary and things, so they know I cannot work every Saturday morning because I have other commitments. Generally work are pretty good with that kind of thing. I know my supervisors pretty well. They do not really speak down to us per se, as I know they do in a lot of workplaces. I have friends who work, and they get spoken down to.

Mrs D’ATH —Do you think that with the activities you participate in, like your volunteer work with Rotary and also netball—I noticed your badge of the Lions over there, Matthew—it would be beneficial to have the skills you have learned through your volunteer work recognised so that you could show future employers the types of skills you have learnt?

Matthew —I think it is a really good idea, because with Paige’s volunteer work and other activities that we have been involved in you do pick up a lot of life skills and general things that you can use in the workforce that they may not be aware of. So there should definitely be a section on your resume that you could pop that into.

Zuzanna —I would add to that that it would depend on what type of volunteer work you do for what type of job you want to get into. For instance, if you wanted to become a vet then you might volunteer at the RSPCA, or if you wanted to be on radio then you might volunteer at local radio stations. I guess jobs should focus on your volunteer work but on their specific areas in that volunteer work.

CHAIR —One of the reasons that we are looking at this is that one of the issues is recognising the skills, knowledge and attitudes that you develop in your paid work. In structured work programs, you would have folders where there are a whole lot of things being followed and ticked off in terms of the skills that you are developing and that sort of thing, but the presumption of young people in casual jobs is, ‘This is irrelevant; I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life, so it doesn’t matter,’ whereas in fact what employers say is, ‘We want people who can prove they can turn up on time and do a full shift, that they are reliable and that they have customer skills.’ No matter where you are working, they want to know that young people can talk to the clients and have some maturity. So some of the things you are getting in your part-time and casual jobs are really valuable skills and knowledge even if that is not the industry you want to end up in, but it is not captured. A lot of your teachers would know this from teaching job interview skills. It is really difficult to get young people to understand that it was not just some entry-level job where you did not gain much; you actually learnt a lot in doing that and gained a lot of skills, and you are not really good at describing it. So we are a bit interested in those aspects.

Adam —I think it is important that an employer recognises volunteer work, as it is an experience.


Mrs D’ATH —I would be interested if anyone has any comments they would like to make generally about what you think can be done to assist students in balancing those work commitments with your study commitments.

Maddison —I believe that it should be compulsory—the government should print a handout or something like that—for all employers to give information to their employees. I know that when I started I was just given a couple of sheets to fill out, and that was just tax sorts of things; there was nothing about my rights or any future things that I would need to know, such as the age when my wage rate changes and things like that. I really do not know any of that, and it should be compulsory.

Hannah —I agree with Maddison. I had a job before this job, and I was working eight-hour shifts and did not realise that I was allowed a break. I was the only junior there, and I was left alone for a section of time, whereas at this job they gave me a leaflet on all the rights that I have. That has shown me, and my workplace makes sure that all those rights are followed through every time I work.

CHAIR —Is that a booklet that is specific to that employer or is it a general one that they are using?

Hannah —I think it is just a general one that they are using. There were two of them in there. At Prouds, they have their own and they write it all out.

CHAIR —Good point. Has anybody else got any observations?

Zuzanna —Just about that booklet: maybe it would be a good idea to include how much employers should be paying their employees—like, is there a set minimum—

CHAIR —You have hit on exactly the problem. There are so many different awards, payments and places. We need to make sure that you know where to go to get the correct information. You are exactly right.

Mitchell —You asked about balancing work and school life. Within our college, we do it really well. But to go to our college you need to have done work experience in previous years and to have picked what job you want to do. If you are just doing a casual job outside of school, not actually as part of your training course, it would be a lot harder to balance.

CHAIR —So part of the balance help for your structure is the fact that the paid work is structured within the school’s planning and arrangements?

Mitchell —Yes. Our college has built itself around work. It has gone out to industry and seen what industry wants and then built the college around that.

CHAIR —I hope you have all made decisions about which careers you want to follow through with. One of the things that is often raised with this is that young people—particularly in the trades—make a decision and then, six months down the track, find out that it is not what they thought it was and that they do not like it at all. Are you telling me that you have to have had some work experience in it before you undertake it, to make sure that you do know what it is about?

Mitchell —Work experience in that industry while you are in year 10, before you decide, is a great help in making a decision, rather than just jumping straight into it and not knowing what you are in for.

Adam —We also do work experience compulsorily in year 11, before we actually start our apprenticeships, so that we get a taste of what the field is like. I know people that have done the work experience and then changed their trade because they had had a taste of what the trade was.

CHAIR —Yes—their perception of the trade was so different to the reality.

Adam —Yes.

CHAIR —One of the other issues that we are quite keen to have a think about is the number of paid work hours outside a full-time program—not the sort of paid work that you guys are doing, within a full time program, but paid hours outside your full-time program. What do you think, in years 11 and 12, is the maximum number of hours you should be doing, after which point it is probably not manageable and there is too much pressure? You have all got some level of experience in the workplace, so I might just ask you to think, on the basis of your experience, about what would be the maximum number of hours you should be doing, after which it starts to become a real burden, a real challenge and too difficult to manage. Has anybody got a view on how many hours might be a reasonable number? I will just get you all to give me a number. You will notice on the sheet that there is no wrong or right answer, so just have a go at it. Mitchell, what do you think?

Mitchell —They have brought in a maximum of 12 hours for students up to grade 10. I think that it would be a big help if they continue that through to the end of grade 12.

CHAIR —You reckon around 12 hours seems to have worked well?

Mitchell —Yes.

Tomas —For normal school students, I think eight to 12 hours is probably a good number, because you are not doing too much, but you are not doing too little. So you can complete an eight-hour shift on a Saturday or you can do the extra four hours on a Thursday night, which will not impact on your schooling and education as much.

Adam —I had a previous job at Pizza Hut when I was in year 12, studying at Mueller College. I found that it was good, because my employer told me that I was not legally allowed to do over 10 or 12 hours, I think. That was good because I could balance my schoolwork and my job at the same time.

CHAIR —Do you think that, if that law had not been in place, you would have ended up doing more hours?

Adam —My boss was reasonable with me. She spoke to me and asked if I did want more, and I said I would like to keep it as it was. But on my weekends I did do longer shifts.

CHAIR —Thanks. Paige, what do you think?

Paige —I think about 10 to 14 is reasonable for schoolchildren. Up to 12 is fine for kids up to grade 10. It is fine as long as you are not doing consecutive nights during the week and you are not spending your whole weekend at work; maybe a day at work is all right, but two days is a bit excessive.

CHAIR —Beyond about 14 hours you are probably doing consecutive nights or whole weekends. Is that what you are saying?

Paige —Yes.

CHAIR —Okay. Hannah, what do you think?

Hannah —I think eight to 10 hours. Our school has also recommended that much.

CHAIR —So the school itself has a policy.

Hannah —They do not have a policy as such but there is a recommendation.

CHAIR —Okay. Would most of your friends at school be complying with that or is there some pushing of it? What do you reckon?

Hannah —I know some of my friends make sure that they do under 10 hours, but I was talking today to a girl who does 20 hours a week, plus sports commitments. I know that I personally could not handle that.

CHAIR —When they are doing the extra hours, what are they telling you? Is that because they really want to because they are saving for something and want the money, or are they pressured by their employer to do extra hours? What do they tell you?

Hannah —I think that because they have not said, ‘I don’t want that many hours,’ their employer just thinks that they can do that many hours and that is that.

CHAIR —So there is not a lot of speaking up? Even if they do not want to, they just comply and do it anyway?

Hannah —Yes, pretty much.

CHAIR —Okay. Thanks. Matthew, what do you reckon?

Matthew —I would probably have to agree with most of the people down the line that about 10 to 12 would probably be a safe limit to have. I think that something that needs to be looked into is the sports activities that people are undertaking as well. I am sure a fair few people here would have them as well. They can take upwards of six to eight hours a week or whatever it is. If you try and couple that with working, it does not always come out okay. I think that around that is a safe area. You have your two nights and a short shift or a full shift and a shorter shift, so it gives you a bit of variety and not too much in the end.

CHAIR —Matthew, you have talked about your sport and how you stopped working because of those commitments. Do you think too many young people sacrifice not so much the school and the homework but having a life in order to work?

Matthew —Yes, definitely. A number of my friends have given up a sport that they have played previously for eight to 10 years because they had to get a job—or did not have to get a job but decided that they would get a job. When it got too tough to keep both, they kept the job. So it happens. I chose the other way—I guess I loved the sport too much—but it is a tough choice about whether you want to get the money and try and save for a car or something. That is really important to a lot of year 12s.

CHAIR —Yes, the car is the big one we hear about. Tomas, did you want to make a comment on that?

Tomas —Yes. On the topic of sacrificing a lot, if you are doing a trade as well you sacrifice, I guess, 90 per cent of your social life. It may not be as much with other trades, but as a chef I give up pretty much everything.

CHAIR —Were you prepared for that? A lot of people think they want to do hospitality and—

Tomas —Social life was my life before I started, so I gave up a lot. On my work rotation I will usually work pretty much all day or all night with split shifts, five days a week.

CHAIR —What about the four weeks when you are back at school? Do you use the opportunity to catch up with the social life as well?

Tomas —Yes, I try to now. I try to get out a lot more.

CHAIR —It is a good point. Where was I up to? Maddison?

Maddison —My opinion is that it should be about 12 hours. I think it is important to recognise that it is only a maximum, not really recommended. I think schools should acknowledge that work is an important part of growing up. I do not think it should be seen as such a bad thing. When setting a maximum, it is important that it is just a maximum. There are some students who do like to do 14 hours a week because they are earning money and they have their goals in life. Sometimes they already have their foot in the door. I know this sounds awful, but they do not need to concentrate on school as much; they already have work for them there. Others may only work four hours a week. So I think a compulsory maximum for all businesses, companies et cetera should be enforced.

CHAIR —And there should be more recommendations and guidelines for people?

Maddison —Yes.

Ashlee —About 10 hours a week, I think. But everyone is different and they have all got different outside commitments which determine how much work they can handle each week.

Lincoln —I think it should just be a maximum of 10 to 12. It is up to the individual how much he or she wants to work, but, for the majority of people, it would be pushing it a bit to go for more than the 10 to 12 hours, because school in years 11 and 12 is pretty hectic at times.

Nick —I am happy to do about 10 to 12 hours. But, when it is leading into assignment and exam time, I will ask my work if I can get my hours down to about four a week, and they are happy to do that.

CHAIR —That is one of the things that we hear is a real challenge—in workplaces, you may have four or five people doing casual work who are all in year 12, and, when the exams come up, they are all competing for time off and trying to juggle shifts and things. It becomes a bit of a challenge. I see many of you nodding—this is a common experience among your friends. Or there is an excursion, and everybody from the school is going. So it is a good point—the timing of it matters as well.

Zuzanna —I would say around 10 hours a week. But I guess that depends on what people are doing outside of school as well—their extracurricular activities and things like that—and on where the 10 hours fall in the course of the week. For example, is it the whole weekend gone or just nights, so they cannot study at night or something like that?

CHAIR —You all seem to agree that the arrangement of the hours, and not just the number of hours, is important. It is very interesting—we did the same exercise in Adelaide, and in South Australia they do not have any regulation of hours of employment of young people up to the age of 16. They suggested to us that 15 to 20 was a good and manageable number of hours. So the experience you have of the hours being controlled up to the age of 16 and having a realistic view has perhaps made you more aware. Do you think, just from observing your friends and colleagues, that young people are well positioned to know and to judge when they are doing too much, or do you think they juggle, juggle, juggle until it all falls apart? What might be some of those things that you see happen when it all falls apart? You do not have to name names, just circumstances where you have seen things happen.

Hannah —A girl at my work decided to work too many hours last year. She was finishing year 12 and, because she chose to work too many hours, she did not get into the subject she wanted to do—she failed to reach the prerequisite for it because she juggled too much with work and school.

CHAIR —She said to you that that is the mistake she made?

Hannah —Yes. She has been telling me not to work as many hours. She said it was just too hard.

CHAIR —But, at the time, she thought she was managing?

Hannah —Yes, she thought she was fine. But, in the end, it did not turn out for her.

Matthew —About a year and a half ago now—when I was back at the fish and chip shop—I was only at the end of grade 10, but the other workers there were at the end of grade 12. A guy and a girl there were both doing up around 20 hours a week. One of them was going to Grace Lutheran College as well, and they both had aspirations to go to university, but, unfortunately, neither got the OPs they expected—both of them got scores in the mid-teens and higher teens. Their opportunities got cut down a bit. It is just annoying to see them trying to juggle it all. You wish someone would sit them down and say: ‘There is a life after this year and you should try and keep your eyes focused on the future as well. It is great to make $3,000 this year, but how is it going to impact on you for the rest of your life?’ You just wish that you could help some people who are struggling and give them a hand.

CHAIR —Matthew and Hannah, these experiences are probably good to have observed and learned from, but, sadly, people seem to keep repeating that pattern.

Nick —One of my friends was a smart person but was struggling at school because they were doing too many hours at work. As a result, they failed school. Rather than quit work and go back to school, they thought it would be simpler to stay at work and leave school.

CHAIR —When you say that they failed, do you mean that they did not get the results that they wanted or needed for something they were looking to do?

Nick —No, they failed grade 11. If they wanted to finish their high school education, they had to redo grade 11.

CHAIR —Do they recognise, in their observations to you, that it was the excess work that had that effect on their results?

Nick —Partly.

CHAIR —So it was a contributing factor?

Nick —A big one.

Maddison —In my opinion, there are a lot of kids out there who do not realise that they are doing too much. It is important that they know their limitations and that they are told they do not have to be working that much. It has happened to me before that I have had to work a whole weekend, full-time on both days, and the only reason I actually worked is that I felt bad saying no to it. Maybe if they knew that they could say no and if they had a voice, they would not be doing this many hours.

CHAIR —A lot of young people say to us, ‘I don’t dare say no because I won’t get on the roster for the next week.’ Many of you are nodding, so this is a common experience and concern among young people.

Adam —At a previous job, I was working six till five. I was getting pressured into working those hours—they made me feel bad if I did not.

CHAIR —Is it a guilt thing? Is that what you are saying?

Adam —Yes, it was a guilt thing. They said, ‘If you don’t work, you just let everybody else down.’

Dr JENSEN —One of the things that was highlighted to us earlier was the issue of negotiation skills. Some young people have got very good negotiation skills and others, basically, have less confidence. I am interested in opinions from everyone here. Can you relate some good and bad experiences that you may have had in negotiations with employers or, indeed, teachers?

Matthew —On the negotiation skills: I suppose that they are an important thing to have, but when a 15-year-old is sitting in front of a 30- or 40-year-old employer who, at the end of the day, is paying them and giving them the money, their ideas tend to bend significantly to suit the employer’s way of thinking. So I do not think negotiation skills help you too much, because, at the end of the day, you really want to keep the job. If they really want you to work, you either have to have a nice employer or have to sacrifice the other commitment that you wanted to go to.

Dr JENSEN —The thing with that is that you may not end up with an idealised sort of situation, but at least if you negotiate and are a relatively confident negotiator then the employer knows what the situation is from your perspective. If you are not a confident negotiator—or, indeed, if you do not negotiate at all—they are guessing at what is okay for you but they do not know.

Matthew —Exactly. I think an open line of communication is probably what is needed there. As you said, confidence does help to portray what is going on in your life and your point of view. If I just say, ‘Look, I can’t work five nights a week,’ they are going to take a very backwards approach and think: ‘What is going on here? Do I want an employee who’s never going to work?’ But if you say, ‘Look, this is just for two weeks,’ and have the confidence to get your point across and to try and work out the scenario, it can be as you said. But it can be both positive and negative, I suppose.

Maddison —I agree with what Matty said before: you will never be able to really get rid of feeling bad when you are sitting in front of your employer, feeling a little more inferior. They will always be your boss, I suppose. I know that, as an employee, I feel that I should listen to my employer more than I do already. It is confusing me. When I talk to her I need to take her ideas more seriously and listen to her more just because she is my boss. I do not think you will ever be able to get rid of that as such, but maybe employees’ points of view and confidence levels can be improved.

Zuzanna —I found that when I started my job I did not really know my boss that well. Then, when I got more used to it, it was a situation where I did not know whether, if I asked my boss for fewer hours, more hours or something, he might get angry at me. I think a lot of people go through that. I know they do not want to do that. But when I eventually said ‘I need to do this’ and I asked him, he was really good about it. He pretty much said, ‘You should have just told me this straight away.’ I think that, with a lot of bosses, people just do not know how nice they are. They just think, ‘It’s a boss; I can’t be against them.’

Dr JENSEN —Not realising that they are people as well.

Zuzanna —Yes.

Lincoln —I used to work at KFC and one of our managers was a really intimidating lady. She used to bully us into working and stuff like that. If you did have other commitments and you told her, during that shift you were working she would get you to do the least favourable station. We have little stations like burger making or working on the counter. That was pretty bad.

CHAIR —Was that an adult or was that another young person who was a supervisor?

Lincoln —She was a lady who had been working at KFC since she was 15 and she is 40-something now, so I guess she was taking out her rage.

Nick —My experience is a bit like the opposite of Lincoln’s. I work at McDonald’s. It is probably a better environment. Everyone gets along, and the managers are mostly young people—under 40—and remember that they are working with mostly teenagers and people at university level. Occasionally, before the school holidays we would have a crew meeting where we would sit and all get to have a say about how many hours we wanted to be doing over the holidays. We get to do things like that. During school time, they also ask us whether we want to be working one or two school afternoons, whether we want to work three hours minimum on a weekend and things like that. They pretty much let us have a say.

CHAIR —There is a good manager there, by the sounds of it.

Paige —At work, we have a lot of give and take with our main supervisor. We just had a changeover, so we have just got a new boss. She does not really talk much—she grunts a lot—so she is a bit intimidating to some of the younger girls that have not been there as long. I have another boss, because I work upstairs in the cash office, and she is really good. If I cannot work one shift, I say, ‘Would you be able to work my Saturday night and I can work your Friday night?’ and things like that. Downstairs it is predominantly young supervisors. The only really older person is our new boss. She is intimidating to some of the younger kids, and a lot of them feel as though, if she rings them, they have to say yes.

CHAIR —Are you saying, Paige, that it is not necessarily that she is intending that to be the message but they take that as the message?

Paige —Yes. She does not really verbally communicate.

CHAIR —Perhaps we should be doing negotiating and communication skills with the supervisors.

Lincoln —Just about shift swapping: at KFC, if you needed to swap a shift with someone at the last minute, the lady would not help you out with it. She would give you the phone book of all the people that work there and make you do it. She was not accommodating at all about things like that.

CHAIR —That is a very common story we hear and which the committee has been quite shocked about, to be honest—this idea that it is ‘normal’ if you cannot make a shift that you have to find your own replacement. That is not a normal practice at all. It is interesting you have had the same experience as well.

Adam —I have made that compromise with my manager before, too. I said, ‘I cannot work this shift but I will find someone else to do it for you.’ So I did that.

CHAIR —Why did you feel you needed to do that?

Adam —Because I was not working for them. I thought I would do them a favour.

CHAIR —Is part of your thinking about being a good employee that you do those sorts of things?

Adam —Yes, because the manager has work to do themselves and they have given me a shift. I have thought, ‘They have given me that and I can’t work it, so I will do them a favour and find someone else to work the shift for them.’

CHAIR —If you had made an honest effort to do that and could not find someone, do you think it would have been an issue?

Adam —I have had that before when I could not find anybody and they said, ‘That’s fine.’ But I have had bad experiences at a different job too where they asked me to work Saturday and they intimidated me, and made me feel I might lose my job. So I have worked Saturday as well.

CHAIR —Mitchell?

Mitchell —In grade 10, I had a part-time job at McDonald’s. If you could not work a shift, you would ask a couple of people you knew if they could work it and if you could not find someone the manager would find someone for you.

CHAIR —So you would make an initial attempt amongst your mates you worked with to see if anyone could do it but, at the end of the day, it was okay with the manager because the manager would look after it?

Mitchell —Yes.

CHAIR —Hannah?

Hannah —At my work if we cannot work a shift, we just tell the manager and usually someone will say, ‘I’ll take the job.’ That is all we do. But when I was working at a restaurant about two years and it was my birthday and I wanted that shift off, she made me feel really bad because I took that shift off. It was an eight-hour shift and I was the only junior, so I was made to feel it was all my fault if something was to go wrong in that shift.

CHAIR —Some people say they end up doing lots of hours because they are a good friend. The good friend is the reliable one whom all their mates know. ‘Ring so-and-so. They always do an extra shift.’ Because no-one is overseeing this, it is not the supervisor who is allocating the extra shifts and that is how they end up with 25 or 30 hours a week. They are helping a mate out or whatever by doing the shift for them. That is part of the reason we are concerned about that model.

Mrs D’ATH —I am very interest to hear from you all. Just about everyone of you have a story about a bad employer at some point and how you felt intimidated and had to work extra hours or had difficulty changing shifts. Also, there are those of you who have worked previously but found it too much on top of your school work, especially when you are in grades 11 and 12 and made the decision to leave. How much did you discuss these sorts of situations with your parents, such as when you wanted to miss a shift and you tried to negotiate with your employer? How much of these sorts of issues have you discussed with your parents prior to making your decision?

CHAIR —Have you initiated any discussion, as opposed to discussion initiated by your parents?

Tomas —When it comes to that, I tend to not talk to my parents about it. I guess your boss is intimidating enough that when you try and get time off and you have to tell your parents they would take it the wrong way. It is hard to say, but I would rather not tell my parents if I have to have a day off to do something. I would rather just say, ‘I’m not working today.’

CHAIR —Adam?

Adam —I tend to do the same but I have a better employer, so I do not really need to talk to my parents about it. Previously with the long hours that I worked, I asked my dad what to do about how to ask my boss to cut the hours from six to two, which are normal working hours, but have no overtime. He said to work the hours to keep the boss happy. My dad never went to year 12. He finished year 10 and then went straight into the workforce. In my situation it is a bit different, so I do not think he was the best person to be asking for advice, at that stage.

CHAIR —But it is a common attitude that if you have a job, the boss is the boss and you do what they ask. That is not uncommon. Does anyone else have anything to add?

Hannah —I always say that I tell my parents everything.

CHAIR —Is that because you are on the record?

Hannah —It is actually the sad truth. When I had problems at work at the restaurant, I would always talk to my parents about it and they would always tell me what to do. My dad and mum have been in situations like that, so they would tell me what they did. In the end, I quit that job because it was too hard anyway. They were the ones who made sure I did it because they did not want me going, ‘No, I don’t want to say that to them.’

Nick —I do not need to get rid of shifts for schoolwork. It is normally when I have got an event or a jig to go to and I have been rostered on at that time. I prefer not to tell my parents that I am trying to get rid of a shift because it is always the ‘I told you so’ thing. My mum might have said to me two months before, ‘Why don’t you say that you are unavailable for this date?’

CHAIR —They are making the point about organisational skills and sometimes it is not what you need to hear—is that what you are saying?

Nick —Very much.

Maddison —I am lucky that my parents and my boss actually know each other—

CHAIR —That is lucky, Maddison, is it?

Maddison —Yes. We are all locals. My boss is just up the road from me and so are all my co-employees so I can talk to my parents about that, and if I do not talk to them my boss will. But I think it is a good thing in a way because they get on well and I get on well with my boss. I do not feel bad talking to mum and dad about that.

Lincoln —I work at the local convenience store. My parents have been going there for quite some time and they are pretty good friends with the employer. That is how I got the job; we were friends with them. I feel bad telling my parents that I am having problems or stuff like that at work, for example, that I do not get pay slips, that I get paid out of the till and things like that. When I tell them they get kind of funny towards me because they are good friends. But other than that I can speak to them about most things.

CHAIR —But it does have some challenges.

Mrs D’ATH —Matthew, you made the decision to give up work because you were going into the senior years. Did you discuss that decision with your parents?

Matthew —Yes, it was a pretty lengthy discussion, really, and it spread over a number of months. I had the feeling at the end of year 10. I was not completely happy and fulfilled in the job that I was at; I was not enjoying it and there were always issues going on. When we discussed at home it they always fell back on saying, ‘Give it a try. Go back and ask them whether you can just do one shift.’ But the employer I was working for stated quite clearly that they wanted a certain amount out of me and it just was not going to work.

I suppose there is a guilt trip also that they would sometimes try to put on you with things like, ‘You can’t slack off; if you are not going to work, you have got to do more stuff around the house,’ and things like that to try to convince me. But in the end I think that once they understood my point of view, that I was only doing it because of school and wanting to keep my sporting activities up—because I realised that it was just not going to work, keeping school up to where I wanted it to be—they understood and they supported me through that. If it had not been for schooling, then I think that they would have looked upon it a bit more negatively.

CHAIR —One of the things that has been raised with us is that sometimes there is a conflicting message between parents and school in that parents will give you a message that they value you having part-time or casual jobs. They actually encourage it and they think that it makes you a bit more in independent—it stops you nagging them for money—and there are some other things that they really value about you having a part-time or casual job. Whereas from school you might be getting the message that years 11 and 12 are serious and you should not be doing the work. There has been a little bit of evidence that has taken us a bit by surprise in that I do not know that parents and schools always recognise that they are sending different messages. Would you comment on that?

Matthew —I personally agree with the school’s thoughts about the importance of years 11 and 12. I am completely for working. I had the job for a year and a half up to the end of year 10 and I think that that is a great experience. As you said, it gives independence and you learn to work hard. In whatever industries people here are in, I am sure they are working at what they do.

It does teach you to work that three or eight hours solid, that you do not get a lot of breaks and that it is hard work. Some of it is character building. It is great for the younger years of schooling when you can take on a few more hours than you normally can in senior school, because of the lower level of study. But I do believe that, once you get to years 11 and 12, it should be cut back a bit. The importance of schooling should be emphasised to students more regularly—messages like: ‘Your job now isn’t the be-all and end-all. It’s not going to make or break who you are.’ I am not saying anything bad about working at a fish and chip shop, a KFC or McDonald’s—you might want to do that for the rest of your life, and that is a great thing—but if you have higher aspirations then you should try to put your time and effort into what could help you get there.

CHAIR —Does anyone else want to comment on the conflicting messages?

Zuzanna —I am not sure if this answers the question, but I think it would be a good idea for schools to give students, for instance at the Australian Technical College, the opportunity to go into a part-time job at a workplace similar to where the students want to end up.

CHAIR —To facilitate them finding that sort of work?

Zuzanna —Yes. I think it would be a good idea to do that.

Maddison —Just to reiterate, I actually have the opposite opinion to Matthew. I believe schools enforce the whole ‘work takes up your whole time’ thing a bit too much—that is, at my school, anyway. They are always saying ‘no more than eight hours’. But I think it is important to recognise that it is an important part of a teenager’s life. It is unavoidable that they are going to want to save for their car or for their uni next year. Actually, just yesterday we were talked to about uni and they spoke about how much it costs and how much living expenses are. Where are you going to get that if you are not working? So I think it is very important that schools and parents alike enforce the message that it is important to work but it is important to keep the balance, so that children should know their place.

CHAIR —The balance is the key factor?

Maddison —Yes.

Nick —This is about the schools enforcing. Earlier I said I had a friend who was failing. Her grades went from being As and Bs to being Ds and Cs, and the school was not helping her out with it. She approached the school and asked about things such as tutors and they said, pretty much, that she should be leaving work. But sometimes work provides a better environment than schools do. When she failed school, the school was not able to help other than to say, ‘Redo the year,’ whereas work was able to provide things such as traineeships and degrees in—

CHAIR —Management type courses?

Nick —Not management courses. I am trying to think what it is called.

CHAIR —Diploma?

Nick —Yes, a diploma in things such as food service.

CHAIR —They were a more attractive option to her because they were more flexible and understood the need to have an income and so forth?

Nick —Yes.

CHAIR —I think there is some really useful information in all of that for us. I will just make a comment on the process. We have these hearings and we get submissions. On the Parliament House committee website there is survey for students. Some of you may have filled it out already, but if you are talking to other friends and colleagues at school about today and they say, ‘I’d really like to tell them about this’—perhaps they have had a particular incident happen to them and they want to tell us about their experience—they can just go on the website and fill out that survey. I am pretty sure your schools will have the information about where the website is. It is really important, if we are going to make recommendations to the minister about national rules, national guidelines or whatever we are going to do, that it actually works for young people. That is why your talking to us today is invaluable, because we need to hear what is really going on. As parents, we will say one thing. As teachers, we will say: ‘We think this is happening.’ Employers will tell us that everything is rosy; they are all lovely people. But talking to you and getting the real picture is what helps us make good recommendations. So we really appreciate your time and your honesty with us today and the information you have provided.

Thank you all for your attendance here today. A copy of the transcript of your evidence, which is what Hansard is doing, will be sent to your schools and it will also be published on the committee’s website—you are permanently part of the record of the federal parliament now. Thank you very much for your evidence. When we do the final report we will make sure that your schools get a copy of it so you can see from all of your evidence what we have decided to recommend to the minister in this area.

Resolved (on motion by Dr Jensen):

That this committee authorises publication, including publication on the parliamentary database, of the transcript of the evidence given before it at public hearing this day.

Committee adjourned at 3.00 pm