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Part-time work for kids

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A part-time job is essential for children, no matter how busy, bright, shy or disorganised they are.

Not only does it teach them about money, it also develops a range of other attributes: skills in communication, problem solving and time management.

It expands their world as they meet different people and make new friends. It can even impact the career they choose.

kids and work

But finding a first job is tough because it is competitive. It is common for employers to hold recruitment sessions, where applicants are assessed as they talk about themselves and play team games.

It is always best to apply early, before a school or university breaks up. I have sent my kids off - rather reluctantly - with their resumes to the local shops. One summer holidays, one of my daughters distributed dozens of resumes and didn't get any bites.

She ended up working for a neighbour, updating his website while he was on holidays, and babysitting.

The next summer holiday she didn't just leave her resume. She asked if she could work without pay. Yes, she did get ripped off by a few cafes that asked her back a number of times but she had three so-called job offers.

My family lives in an area of Sydney where there is plenty of competition from backpackers and students. Employers take advantage of eager workers and pay rates that are well below award requirements.

There's no superannuation or holiday pay. It is common for kids to focus on getting the job, forgetting to ask important questions such as the pay rate. Employers sometimes take advantage of them.

Kids are so keen to get experience that they will accept jobs with unreasonable conditions. What is common - particularly in the Christmas lead-up - is working long hours without breaks and unpaid extra hours.

While it may seem kids' options are limited, this sort of employment is a rip-off. Also some small businesses have cash flow problems. One of my kids waited more than six months to get paid.

On the upside, it was a valuable learning experience and she won't fall for that again.

Another employer racket is putting on kids as trainees and paying them a ridiculously low wage for months. This is common in fast-food operations and "trainees" do the same work as everyone.

Kids need to know that employers must provide a statement of employment when they start work, or soon after. It is important for your kids to stand firm about issues.

Employers must follow the National Employer Standards (NES) and if they don't they can be penalised up to $10,800 for an individual and $54,000 for a company.

The ideal is to get a job with an employer who pays the minimum wage, plus benefits. One of my kids landed a dream job with a family that paid award wages and super.

The employer understands her study and work balance. Once your kids have made some money, teach them to save part of it. It's a good idea for them to set aside some of their earnings for spending through the rest of the year.

Get ready for a job

  • Prepare a resume - with contact details
  • Organise a tax file number through your school, as it is so much easier than doing it on your own.
  • Set up a bank account.
  • Choose a highly rated, low-cost superannuation fund.
  • Get good references. If you don't have a previous employer to recommend you, you can get a reference from a school teacher or family friend. Let the referees know that they may be contacted.
  • Once your child is 18, encourage them to do a hospitality course with a company that can genuinely help them get a job.
  • Apply online for big employers such as food and retail chains. Take your CV to local shops and cafes; face-to-face works.
  • Don't forget to ask about pay rates and hours once you have been offered the job.
  • If there is training, check you will be paid.
  • Go to fairwork.gov.au and use the calculators to work out the award pay rates to which you are entitled. The website also explains entitlements. Or phone Fair Work on 131 394.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.
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