A university student is taking action in the Federal Circuit Court against the NAB, claiming he wasn’t paid for 12 months work he did as part of a university course.
According to a report in Fairfax, Daniel Stuart is claiming $80,833.83 for lost wages and superannuation, alleging that he worked for the bank for a year as an “employee” and not part of an unpaid vocational placement.
Mr Stuart worked at the bank through Swinburne University’s Industry Based Learning (IBL) program, which is described as offering practical experience and a paid work placement.
Mr Stuart worked as a junior business analyst at NAB as part of the IBL program, and said his duties included regularly updating the NAB corporate intranet site, designing internal reports, taking part in staff training, rewriting user guides for technology equipment, and providing technology support for staff.
He said the bank provided him with a laptop, an email address, access to its online systems, building access, an identification card and authority to buy equipment at NAB’s expense.
He also appeared in the bank’s corporate directory as a level 2 employee.
Work did not earn university credit points
While Mr Stuart claims the NAB did not pay him a salary or any superannuation during the time he worked there, he does concede that he was paid an allowance of about $16 an hour or $31,000 for the year from Swinburne University – money that the NAB had “gifted” to the university.
Mr Stuart was told by the university that the IBL program did not earn him credit points to count towards his course, and therefore he maintains he was working as an employee, and not taking part in a vocational placement.
“At the end of the day I worked for a year and didn’t get anything out of it,” Mr Stuart told Fairfax.
“I chose to work because I wanted to get paid.
“Given that their last profits were $5.5 billion you would assume they could afford to pay people properly.”
NAB said it is not required to pay students anything
In documents lodged with the court, the NAB said it was not required to pay any student any award, salary, fee or other payment for taking part in the IBL program.
“Students are and will remain at all time students of the University and will not be deemed employees, apprentices, servants or contractors of NAB by reason of their participation in the IBL program,” the documents state.
Unpaid work allowed as long as it it part of accredited course
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Industrial Relations Claims, said businesses can lawfully not pay people who are working as part of a vocational placement or internship if it has been organised through a proper training organisation.
“The Fair Work Act says employers can be exempt from paying students for work, as long as that work is part of their accredited vocational training course,” he said.
“It’s interesting in this case that the university told Mr Stuart that the program offered a ‘paid’ placement, and that his work would not earn him any credits towards his assessments.
“It is also interesting that the bank gave the uni money, which was then paid to Mr Stuart, because it sounds to me like he was being ‘paid’ something for the work he was doing.
“The court will have to decide if this university program can be considered a vocational training course, because if it is, then the bank had every right not to pay him.
“As a general rule, if you are doing work for a business that is directly benefiting that business, and your traineeship or internship is not directly linked to a course that you are studying, then you must be paid.”
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