Careers in Australia

Australian Workplace Culture

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Working life is different in every country and corporate culture in Australia may be quite different to what you’re familiar with. Read on for some key information about working in Australia.

Compared to offices in many other countries, Australian workplaces are quite informal. This applies to the relationships between colleagues and with management, the language used in meetings and social conversation, and often the dress code (although this varies from company to company so ask before you start to be sure).

Conversation at work

Meetings often start with social chit chat to break the ice. Joining in and sharing a little bit about your personal life with your workmates (if you feel comfortable doing so) can help you build great working relationships and get to know your colleagues better.

A general rule many Aussies follow is avoiding any mention of religion or politics at work to avoid offending anyone or starting an argument.

Language

Be prepared for lots of jokes, cynicism, sarcasm and even swearing. Many swear words that would be considered very rude in other countries are perfectly acceptable to drop into conversation in an Australian workplace. However, take your cues from your colleagues before you start experimenting too much with your more colourful vocabulary!

You may need to be a bit flexible and forgiving with the language your colleagues use, but speak up if someone says something that offends you and ask them to stop – there’s no need to silently put up with comments that you find offensive.

Greetings

A simple handshake is the accepted greeting when meeting new people for the first time in a business environment. For subsequent meetings, a verbal greeting alone is fine.

Kissing people on the cheeks is the norm in many European countries, but this is not the case in Australian business settings, unless of course you know the person quite well.

Dress

Every workplace will have different standards when it comes to dress, but you may find that Australian workers dress more casually than their counterparts in other countries.

Some standard norms of corporate attire apply. For men this usually means long pants/trousers and button-front shirts. Women may have more freedom in their clothing choices in the workplace but as a general rule should avoid very short skirts, low-cut tops, and anything too sheer or extremely figure-hugging.

Many workplaces have a ‘casual Friday’ where you are encouraged to wear smart casual clothing like jeans.

Working Hours

As a full-time employee, you can expect to work at least 38 hours a week.

Australia’s National Employment Standard sets maximum weekly hours of work at 38 hours per week.

However, according to the University of Sydney Business School’s Australia at Work study, only 34% of all employees surveyed reported working ‘standard hours’ of between 35 and 40 hours per week. 37% usually work more than 40 hours a week, 19% work between 41 and 49 hours a week and 18% work 50 hours or more per week.

The same study found 25% of employees in Australia would prefer to work fewer hours, 8% would prefer to work more hours, while the majority (68%) are happy with the hours they work.

Annual Leave

Aussie workers get 20 days of annual leave a year. This may seem like a lot, or not much, depending on where you’re from!

Fairness

You can expect to be treated fairly and consulted about issues that affect you.

The Australia at Work study found that 78% of employees either agreed or strongly agreed that employees were treated fairly at their workplace. 73% of employees either agreed or strongly agreed that managers consult employees about issues affecting staff.

Your rights & obligations

Your rights and obligations as an employee are clear.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) explains in its Immigration Facts for Workers fact sheet that:

  • Every worker from overseas must have a valid Australian visa with work rights. Temporary visas with work rights include working holidaymaker visas, student visas and the subclass 457 visa. You can check your own work and visa entitlements at www.immi.gov.au.
  • Employers are responsible for checking your right to work in Australia and may ask to see your passport or other identification. Employers must have your permission to check your work rights.
  • Employers cannot cancel visas. Only the DIBP can grant, refuse or cancel visas.

The DIBP website provides information on visa choices, rights and obligations, including how to change your sponsor or apply for permanent residence.

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