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March 20, 2023

Legal aid for the underpaid

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Legal Aid NSW lawyers are available to give free and confidential legal advice to workers who believe they have been underpaid, whether they are Australian citizens, residents, or on a temporary visa.

Recent reports about the alleged underpayment of staff at a number of 7-Eleven outlets may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Last financial year, Legal Aid NSW lawyers gave 1730 legal advice and assistance services, about wages and entitlements, most of them about underpayment.

Underpayment is the second most common employment law problem our clients encounter, second only to unfair dismissals.

In our experience, underpayment is present in a range of workplaces including service stations, cafes, restaurants, pubs, fast food, retail, cleaning and delivery services, he said.

Often workers are particularly vulnerable because of their visa status, or because English is not their first language. Nearly 20 per cent of clients who come to us for employment advice are on a temporary visa.

This problem is not limited to the city; we see it anywhere around the state where we give free legal advice, including in regional areas.

In many cases, it can be difficult to prove underpayment because of a lack of documents. Workers should always try to get payslips that correctly record all hours worked, their pay rates, tax and superannuation. If the boss won’t provide payslips, the worker should keep a diary record of the hours worked.

Legal Aid lawyers can give advice to any current or former employees about their options if they feel they have been underpaid or unlawfully exploited. The advice is strictly confidential, no one will know that a worker has been to see us.

Free legal advice on employment law matters is available from most Legal Aid offices, with regular specialist employment law services, including Lismore.

Simon Howard. Legal Aid NSW senior lawyer

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