Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 11 Hansard (Wednesday, 10 November 2021) . . Page.. 3205 ..
offered and, as a result, many are forced to take on multiple jobs to make ends meet. This insecurity produces an imbalance of power which leaves young workers vulnerable to wage-theft, unsafe work and bullying. It also makes it much harder for young people to stand up for their rights. If they speak up, they risk losing hours or losing their job entirely.
The lack of awareness that many young workers have about their rights and entitlements also prevents young people from standing up to exploitation. A Young Workers Centre report found that the most common reason young workers do not seek help is because they do not know how to do so. Without an understanding of their rights at work or where to report their concerns, young people will continue to be exploited in the workplace.
Young workers are also at a higher risk of physical injury. In 2021, they made up nearly half of all workers compensation claims. A culture of fast-paced work combined with a lack of experience leads to a high injury rate, and many are left to deal with these injuries themselves. Every Canberran has the same right to be safe at work, both physically and psychologically. Young workers clearly need more support and protection so they can enjoy safe and decent work. Educating Canberrans about their rights before they enter the workforce is key to empowering young workers. We want them to have the necessary knowledge to recognise and call out unsafe practices.
The experiences of young workers also indicate that employers need to do a lot better when it comes to meeting WHS obligations. The onus should not be on young people to have to protect themselves from harm in the workplace. Promoting compliance with and enforcement of WHS legislation in workplaces is crucial. WorkSafe ACT’s young workers strategy provides a holistic plan to address these issues affecting young workers. The strategy will focus on increasing young workers’ knowledge of their WHS and workers compensation rights. It will also focus on the compliance of employers and building WorkSafe’s capacity as a regulator. Together, these aims will support the safety of young Canberrans and improve their experience in the workplace.
When creating the strategy, WorkSafe ACT spoke with young workers to learn more about the challenges that they face. They heard that young workers were concerned about their inadequate training and lack of understanding of WHS rights. Young workers were also hesitant to report problems, because they feared losing work or did not know where to report their concerns. These issues clearly demonstrate the need for better education of workers’ rights and the role of WorkSafe ACT. In response to this need, the strategy calls for education campaigns in schools, higher education establishments and apprentice groups.
Young workers are also concerned about mental health issues. A 2021 study found that young Australian males working in the construction industry are twice as likely to take their own lives than any other young Australian man. A workplace culture of bullying and harassment, particularly towards apprentices and those starting off in the industry, greatly impacts the wellbeing of these young people.
Young employees in other industries also struggle with mental health. In a survey by the Young Workers Centre, 30 per cent of respondents said that work negatively