2 min read

How Can I Legally Prepare for Work Before Turning 18?

by Heidi Anderson

21/11/2023

Overview

Are you giving some serious consideration to what you want to do when leaving high school? Wondering what you can do before you reach adulthood? Here, we look at the practical steps you can take before turning 18 that will help you in your career.

As a young person leaving high school and entering the workforce in Australia, you're going through a crucial time in your life. It's an exciting journey to independence and self-sufficiency, and you're likely champing at the bit to get started. You might think that there's not much you can do before reaching 18, but the truth is quite different.

Not only are there lots of opportunities that school leavers can explore to gain valuable experience before officially becoming an adult, but there are also legal requirements that you need to adhere to. In this article, we look at proactive steps you can take to prepare for your future now.

What You Can Do Once You Turn 18

Your 18th birthday is a significant milestone as a youngster in Australia, as it's the day you come of age and become an adult. It's the moment that you gain full control of your destiny, and along with adulthood comes a number of new rights and responsibilities - particularly where work is concerned.

At 18, you can:

  • Vote in federal, state and local elections, actively participating in the democratic process.
  • Legally purchase and drink alcohol at licenced venues (subject to state regulations) - but don't go crazy, as you've got your whole life to partake!
  • Buy tobacco - although it's not something we advise for obvious reasons.
  • Sign agreements such as mobile phone, rental, loan and employment contracts.
  • Drive (if you have a license) without the need for learner or provisional permits.
  • Work without restrictions on the types of jobs you're in or the hours you work.
  • Access Superannuation (a type of retirement savings).
  • Get married without court approval.
  • Make your own medical decisions.

As well as these many rights and freedoms, you also assume legal responsibility for actions - in a court of law. At this point, you are, in every sense, an adult Australian. So, what about if you're a year or two away from this point? What can you do then?

What Are the Working Age Laws in Australia?

When you have work experience on your CV, it shows that you're a) able to hold down a job and b) that you have practical, real-world skills. So, when can you actually start work in Australia? Do you even have to wait until you leave school? Well, actually, no, you don't. Let's see why.

The legal working age in Australia varies based on the state or territory you're in and the type of work you're doing. That said, there are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Part-time/Casual work is usually possible from the age of 13, but it's subject to you getting permission from your parents. You'll also be restricted on the number of hours you can work (varies by state/territory).
  • Full-time work can usually be started when you turn 15 (although some states allow it at 14), but again, the hours and conditions may vary by location. However, at this age, you will usually be encouraged by parents/teachers to continue your education.
  • Traineeships/Apprenticeships can also, in some instances, be accessed at the age of 13 or 14.

You might find the restrictions placed on you before the age of 18 quite frustrating, but they’re there for a good reason. These employment laws are there to ensure your safety and to incentivise you to remain in school for as long as possible.

What You Need to Do in Terms of Setting Up Tax (TFN)

When you start working full-time, even from the age of 15, you'll need to start paying tax. The good news is that you don't start paying it until you earn $18,200 (2023 rules). Over this amount, you'll pay 19c out of every $1, which will be automatically deducted from your payslip.

If you're lucky enough to earn $45,000, you'll pay more tax - although that's not something you'll usually need to think about at the outset. In order to pay tax, you'll need to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN). Here's how you go about it.

Get the relevant documents/info together, which will usually include:

  • Your birth certificate/passport to confirm your identity/residency
  • A valid contact address in Australia

Then, it's just a matter of heading to the Australian Taxation Office website www.ato.gov.au and downloading the Tax File Number application form. After filling out the form accurately, you can either lodge the application online or by post. Processing an approval can take 2-3 weeks.

Once your TFN arrives, it's important you keep it safe, as it's a sensitive piece of personal information. Don't share it or give it to anyone who doesn't have a legitimate need for it.

Wandr - Allowing You Get the Career Direction You Need

Something else important that you can do in the years before reaching 18 is put some serious work into deciding what it is you want to do with your career. The answer to that question might not be 100% clear right now but don't worry, as the Wandr discovery and learning platform is here to help you make sense of all the options open to you.

Allowing you to get proper insight into a range of different roles in the full range of sectors, Wandr Trial Run, Career Kickstarter, Skillin' It!, and Essentials courses give you the insight you need without having to commit to any particular path. Instead of having to make a choice early and gamble that it's the right one, you can try out various areas covered by Wandr training, such as:

  • Business, Entrepreneurship & Management
  • Mental Health & Wellness
  • Trade & Construction
  • Travel & Tourism
  • FX & Graphic Design
  • Fitness & Nutrition
  • Cyber & Tech
  • Photography
  • Beauty & Fashion

What better way to prepare yourself for the right career in these important years before adulthood than sampling those you're interested in to see if they're the right option? What's more, all this insight comes at a monthly cost that won't both the Bank of Mum and Dad. You can engage with it at a pace that suits you via your phone, too, for complete flexibility.

Let Wandr Guide You to a Job You'll Love Doing

They say that people who love their jobs are the lucky ones, and you can bet there are plenty out there who don't! With Wandr's help, though, you can make the right choice and find your true calling, so you end up in a job that’s well-paid and that you enjoy doing every day.

Our interactive, video-led career content includes thousands of topics for you to explore, and there's also 1-to-1 career coaching available from real-world experts who can give you the benefit of their wisdom and experience for priceless guidance at this vital time in your life.

To understand more about us and the benefits of Wandr, visit us today at www.wandr.au. Alternatively, why not have a chat with our team by calling 1300 611 404 or emailing support@wandr.au? They're ready and waiting to show you how we can help.

by Heidi Anderson

21/11/2023

Overview

Are you giving some serious consideration to what you want to do when leaving high school? Wondering what you can do before you reach adulthood? Here, we look at the practical steps you can take before turning 18 that will help you in your career.

Career Coach

Heidi

Anderson

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