Modern Australian

expect to be underpaid, bullied, harassed or exploited in some way

  • Written by Carley Ruiz, Research Assistant, Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University
expect to be underpaid, bullied, harassed or exploited in some way

A teenager’s first job can be deeply rewarding, a step towards independence and building skills. But that job may also involve an early taste of exploitative workplace behaviours, including abuse, bullying and harassment.

There are numerous cases of exploitation in workplaces that offer jobs to young people. Think of the systematic underpayment of 7-Eleven workers, for instance, or of Domino’s workers.

Young people working in hospitality – covering restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs – are particularly at risk of exploitative practices, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

We wanted to get a more complete picture of the different types of exploitative behaviours that young workers might encounter. To do so we surveyed 330 undergraduate university students about their experiences in the workplace.

Overall, almost three-quarters (74.2%) of respondents reported experiencing some form of exploitative, abusive or harassing behaviour in their first job.

Read more: How to stop businesses stealing from their employees

Researching workplace exploitation

Our convenience sample of university students that anonymously volunteered to participate were surveyed about their workplace experiences while aged under 18 years old. While the results may not be representative of all young peoples’ work experiences, they provide a good indication of the pattern and relative frequency of different forms of exploitative behaviour.

Importantly for prevention, the study also indicates who is most likely to be a perpetrator and who is most at risk. The results of this exploratory study show that workplace exploitation is common enough to warrant future research on a national level to understand the extent and consequences.

In our study we defined exploitation as the following behaviours:

  • economic exploitation, such as not receiving the correct pay, superannuation, breaks, holidays, or being unfairly dismissed

  • exposure to unsafe work conditions, including not being properly trained or supervised, or being required to carry out tasks breaching workplace health and safety rules

  • bullying, involving repeated behaviour that humiliates and intimidates the victim

  • sexual harassment, involving all unwelcomed sexual behaviour such as touching, as well as jokes or unwanted communication

  • verbal harassment, such as being sworn at, insulted and berated

  • physical violence, including threats of a physical attack.

What we found

The age at which our respondents were first employed in Queensland ranged as low as 11 years old to 17 years old. The majority of respondents (84.0%) were first employed in retail or hospitality.

Just over half (51.5%) of our participants reported some kind of economic exploitation in their first job, including incorrect pay and not being allowed proper breaks.

Verbal harassment was also a common experience (49.1%), followed by exposure to unsafe work conditions (32.1%), sexual harassment (14.5%), and violence (6.4%) in their first job.

Nearly a third (29.4%) experienced ongoing incidents of workplace bullying in their first job.

About a quarter (25.8%) of respondents reported no form of workplace exploitation in their first job.

Victims and perpetrators

Our results indicate there is a statistically significant association between (1) the age respondents are first employed and exploitation and (2) gender and exploitation.

Those who started their first job when aged under 16 were significantly more likely to report verbal harassment (55.3%) and bullying (35.2%) than older respondents aged 16-17 (39.7% and 20.6%, respectively).

This is consistent with other research showing younger teenagers are more vulnerable to being exploited, because they may not understand workplace agreements and laws, and be more frightened to report incorrect pay or incidents.

Females were significantly more likely to report economic exploitation (49.1%) and sexual harassment (16.6%) compared to their male counterparts (34.5% and 5.2%, respectively).

Read more: Are you a bully? Here's how to tell

Co-workers, supervisors and employers were largely responsible for bullying and exposing teenagers to unsafe work conditions.

Customers were largely responsible for harassment and physical abuse.

Respondents also reported many instances where other workers or managers (including owners) witnessed exploitative behaviour but failed to intervene.

Reducing workplace exploitation

Our analysis of survey data indicates workplaces can do much more to protect young people from victimisation.

Low management supervision in retail and hospitality settings, for example, puts females under 16 at high risk of harassment and economic exploitation.

To improve the situation, governments and workplace regulators should more actively monitor, investigate and enforce the laws and regulations. Specifically those surrounding child employment, fair work, pay and superannuation, and workplace health and safety.

Governments and industry groups also need to more effectively engage with employers to make them more aware of their legal obligations.

There is also a role for technology that can help young people monitor their working conditions. The Fair Work Ombudsman’s “Record My Hours” smartphone app, for example.

Apps like this can help young staff track their hours and pay. They could also be modified to enable the reporting of incidents of abuse or incorrect pay.

In recent years we have lurched from one worker underpayment and exploitation scandal to another. Our research indicates this problem may be more grave and pervasive than we have imagined. If that is the case, we must do better.

Authors: Carley Ruiz, Research Assistant, Griffith Criminology Institute, Griffith University

Read more http://theconversation.com/welcome-to-your-first-job-expect-to-be-underpaid-bullied-harassed-or-exploited-in-some-way-110438

NEWS

VIDEO: Michelle Grattan on the government's drought policy

Michelle Grattan says the announcement of extra money for drought-stricken farmers "won't be enough" to alleviate pressure on the government on the issue of drought. ShutterstockUniversity of Canberra Deputy Vice-Chancellor...

Our ability to manufacture minerals could transform the gem market, medical industries and even help suck carbon from the air

Pictured is a slag pile at Broken Hill in New South Wales. Slag is a man-made waste product created during smelting. Anita Parbhakar-Fox, Author providedLast month, scientists uncovered a mineral...

Lambie stays mute on medevac vote after Senate inquiry splits on party lines

Jacqui Lambie has yet to announce whether she will support the bill to have medevac repealed.AAP/Mick TsikasThe Senate inquiry into repealing medevac has predictably split along party lines, with the...

Sydney's 9,189 'sister politicians' who petitioned Queen Victoria

One spring morning in 1850, over 8,000 Sydneysiders marched through town to protest the resumption of transportation – the act of sending British criminals to Australia. It was the largest...

A pioneering climate scientist skilled in the art of life

Penny Whetton, right, addressing a March for Science rally. Her death last month shocked and saddened colleagues.Supplied by familyLast month we lost Dr Penny Whetton - one of the world’s...

​The Coalition government is (again) trying to put the squeeze on the ABC

The Coalition government has reintroduced a bill seeking to mandate the ABC devote more resources to covering regional Australia – a measure that has been defeated before by parliament.Danny Casey/AAPOne...

Is your horse normal? Now there’s an app for that

Vet: are you happy? Horse: neigh.evilgurl/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SASince ancient times, horse behaviour, and the bond between horses and humans, has been a source of intrigue and fascination. The horse-lore that...

Vital signs. Our compulsory super system is broken. We ought to axe it, or completely reform it

We're taking money from people, letting it fall through the cracks, and spending no less than we were on pensions.ShutterstockThe just-announced inquiry into Australia’s retirement income system ought to be...

Might consciousness and free will be the aces up our sleeves when it comes to competing with robots?

Our advantage lies in incommensurables, and it'll grow in importance.Franck V. on UnsplashThe rise of artificial intelligence has led to widespread concern about the role of humans in the workplaces...

What is perimenopause and how does it affect women's health in midlife?

Perimenopause lasts months for some women, and years for others. from www.shutterstock.comAll women know to expect the time in life when their periods finish and they reach menopause. Many might...

a road trip reveals local museums stuck in a rut

Berry, and other tourist towns, are out of step with modern museum curation which is trying to include Aboriginal communities and their stories. ShutterstockAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are...

Curious Kids: how are stars made?

Stars come into existence because of a powerful force of nature called gravity.ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy SchmidtIf you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it...

Popular articles from Modern Australian

5 Italian Designers That Every Australian Should Have in Their Closet9 Effective Ways to Support your Mitochondria and Boost EnergyImportance of Skincare and Skin ChecksHow to Save Money on Heating in AustraliaBest Out of Waste in New South WalesGlamorous Gifts - 5 Luxe Giving Options When Only the Best Will DoFood for collagenIs Rhinoplasty Right for You?Winter fun in ColoradoSlots SecretsEssential Personal Hygiene Tips for TravelingTop 3 Affordable Activities To Do In Los AngelesTop 4 Reasons Why a Gas Fireplace Is an Ideal SolutionAdvantages of Using an Insulin PumpMaths – when it’s time to break free of your misbeliefs