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Young people in the workplace: Introduction - rightsED

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Young people in the workplace

Subjects: Civics and Citizenship, Business
Studies, Career Education, Life Skills, Legal Studies,

Level: Year 9 and up (14 years and up)

Time needed: 1 - 4 lessons


Young people in the workplace contains a series of activities
and resources to help students explore the issues around
workplace discrimination. The activities help students to draw
comparisons between the dramatised workplace issues and their
personal experiences by looking at how concepts of difference,
discrimination and harassment may operate in their daily

The resources provide an opportunity for students to explore
their own sense of identity and compare it with others. A variety
of rights issues can be raised within the context of one
situation. At work, issues of race, age, sex and disability
discrimination may be encountered, and the rights and
responsibilities of employees and employers may not be clearly
defined. By exploring these issues and making students aware of
the rights they should expect to uphold and have upheld in a
workplace situation, they become empowered to act in situations
where they see instances of unlawful discrimination in their own

The accompanying DVD and script explores a potential real-life
situation of young people entering the workplace. Case studies
are provided which explore issues of sex, age, race, and sexual
harassment in the workplace.


Young people in the workplace activities will:

  • raise student's awareness of human rights issues
  • develop student's decision making skills to enable them to
    find informed and practicable solutions to the issues of
    discrimination in the workplace.

The activities can be photocopied for class use and used
individually or as an entire resource.

Learning outcomes

In studying this topic, students will:

  • investigate the importance of identity and difference' in
    establishing an understanding of human rights
  • formulate an understanding of the balance between their own
    individual human rights and a respect for the rights of other
  • identify a range of human rights that apply in workplaces
    and the responsibility of employers and employees in upholding
    those rights
  • understand key features of the laws that apply in the
    workplace with regard to discrimination, harassment and
    responsibilities of workers and employers
  • apply the concepts of workplace human rights to their own
  • use other people's experiences in considering their own
    career possibilities and choices
  • develop cooperative learning and decision making


  • Activity sheet: How do you identify yourself
  • Activity sheet: Case studies at work
  • Resource sheet: Aspects of the law
  • Activity sheet: Position cards
  • Activity sheet: The workplace - your rights and
  • Script - Young people and the workplace
  • Multimedia resource: Young people and the workplace DVD (8
  • Resource sheet: Aspects of the law
  • Key questions: Rights in the workplace
  • Activity sheet: Position cards
  • Activity sheet: Decision making
  • Resource sheet: Making a complaint with the Commission
  • Activity sheet: Difference and discrimination
  • Resource sheet: Difference and career planning
  • Activity sheet: Three stories

Teaching strategies

1: Establishing the issues

  • Activity sheet: How do you identify yourself?
  • Activity sheet: Case studies at work
  • Resource sheet: Aspects of the law

These activities help students to engage in new ways of
thinking about themselves, and allow them to acknowledgement of
any prior learning and understanding in the area of human rights
in the workplace that they may have.

Using the How do you identify yourself? activity
sheet, students investigate aspects of identification that
individuals use, and explore the ways they identify themselves
through a series of questions. Students may find it useful to
work in pairs. A group discussion sampling some students' answers
could then be undertaken to ensure students have grasped the
concepts explored.

The Case studies at work activity presents a series of 10 case
studies with questions, showing a variety of rights issues that
can come up in a range of workplace environments.

Students are required to identify the rights and
responsibilities at work in each case. The questions provided are
designed to provoke thinking and discussion about how best to
balance the rights and responsibilities identified.

The case studies demonstrate a range of legal aspects in terms
of current anti-discrimination legislation that applies in
Australian workplaces. Students should use the resource sheet
Aspects of the law, to assist them in working through the case
studies to investigate the laws that apply in the different

Students could do this activity individually, in pairs, or in
small groups, depending on the dynamics of the classroom. The
tasks for students require them to:

  • identify the behaviours they see as inappropriate
  • comment on what avenues are available to ensure the
    workplace is free from unlawful discrimination and
  • think about the balance of the identified rights and
    responsibilities in each case.

These issues could be raised for debate in a class discussion
before moving to the next activity.

2: Young people and the workplace - themes, task,

  • Activity sheet: Position cards

This lesson prepares students for the activities that will
follow their viewing (or reading) of the DVD (or script). If the
themes and the task are set out beforehand, students will be
equipped to think about what they see (or read) in terms of
identifying the issues raised and the problems to be

The themes raised in the DVD/script are:

  • What rights are legally protected in the workplace?
  • What are the responsibilities that colleagues and employers
    have toward one another in the workplace?
  • How can employees deal with problems of rights
    infringements in the workplace?
  • How can young people deal with problems of sexual
    harassment, race. age and sex discrimination that might arise
    in the workplace?

The task is to work out a solution to the
problems faced by Lian and Kenny in the DVD/script. Students must
select the solution that best meets the need to balance Lian and
Kenny's rights with the rights of others, clarifies the
employer's role in achieving this, and also fulfils the law.

The process is to understand the issues to be
raised in the DVD/script and then to use decision making skills
to come to a solution. Teachers may wish to use the Position
cards as a tool to encourage the discussion at this stage. The
discussion should cover all points of view and their
implications. The students will then be able to reflect on the
nature of their proposed solution and understand the ways in
which the issues raised may affect their own lives.

3: Watching the DVD

  • Activity sheet: The workplace - your rights and
  • Script - Young people and the workplace
  • Multimedia resource: Young people and the workplace DVD (8

Students are each given a copy of the activity sheet called
The workplace - your rights and responsibilities. The questions
on the sheet are guides to the notes students should take during
their viewing of the DVD. The notes will assist in recall of the
range of issues that arise in Lian and Kenny's workplace, and
will be useful in informing the debate as students work toward a
solution within small groups in later stages.

Students read the script or view the DVD and make notes about
the facts of the situation: what has happened, who is involved,
what the key issues are. Some of the key issues for
identification might include:

  • Identifying instances of sex discrimination:
    • in the conduct of the interview
    • in the behaviour of the manager and other colleagues
      toward Lian
    • in the access of training.
  • Identifying instances of sexual harassment:
    • in the suitability of the questions, information and
    • in the working environment (e.g. screen saver)
    • in the physical behaviour and attitudes of
  • Identifying instances of race discrimination in
    stereotyping racial groups:

    • in ridiculing cultural practice
    • in perpetuating negative attitudes in community

There may also be other issues that students raise. Allow the
students to identify as many of these as possible themselves.
Some prompts where necessary may help them focus on any issue
they may not have considered.

4: Identify and discuss the issues

  • Resource sheet: Aspects of the law
  • Key questions: Rights in the workplace
  • Activity sheet: Position cards

At this stage, the focus is on the teamwork element of
understanding the problems faced in the workplace and coming to a
unified position about a possible solution. Students should be
divided into small groups.

There are different ways that the activities may be
approached, and depending on the class in question, or on the
cross-curricula issues you are focusing on, you may wish to have
the small groups concentrate on one of the issues raised in
particular. Alternatively, you could allocate different issues to
each group, (e.g. sex or race discrimination, power-plays, sexual
harassment). Or it may work more effectively in terms of goals
and outcomes you wish to achieve to ask the groups to address
each issue consecutively.

Students should already have a copy of Aspects of the
to refer to and the notes they have taken. Students are
then given:

  • a set of Key questions which should be covered in
    their discussions
  • a set of Position cards.

The Position cards contain statements and comments
from the characters in the DVD/script. Depending on the class
dynamics, you may wish to encourage students to use the
statements in a role-play of 'what happens next?' in response to
where Lian and Kenny have left the situation. This could be done
within the small groups or across groups (with one or two
representatives from each group in the role-play).

Alternatively, the cards may be used as launch points for
further discussion of the issues and demonstration of the
attitudes displayed in the DVD/script.

However you decide to use them, all Position cards should be heard by all members of each group for consideration in
their discussions and their proposed solutions.

Presentation of the content of the Position cards should be
followed by discussion within the small groups, using the key
questions to highlight some of the views presented and to work
towards possible solutions. Answers should be recorded for each
of the Key questions, either individually or by a nominated
scribe within each group.

5: Solutions and making decisions

  • Activity sheet: Decision making

This stage is about exploring the techniques of problem
solving in a group situation through reasoned debate to work
toward a mutually agreed solution. Explain to students that these
are the sorts of skills that would be required to negotiate a
solution in an actual workplace that had issues for redress like
Lian and Kenny's.

After discussing the Key questions and coming up with answers
to them, students should consider a variety of possible solutions
to the problems encountered by Lian and Kenny, and recommend what
they think will be the best solution. A Decision making activity
sheet is supplied for use in this activity.

In their discussions, ensure that the students consider how
the range of proposed solutions affect all the parties
represented in the DVD/script - Kenny, Lian, the workmates, Mr
Robinson (the manager) and Len (the supervisor). They should also
recognise and consider any advantages and disadvantages that
their proposed solutions carry with them.

At the end of the discussion students should decide what they
might do to solve the problems in Lian and Kenny's workplace.
Solutions might include:

  • Lian and Kenny talking to the manager about their
  • asking the supervisor to take up Lian's and Kenny's
    concerns with the other staff
  • discussing the concerns with workmates to form a group that
    can raise the issues with management
  • finding out about the company policies on discrimination
    and harassment
  • seeking to have the issues of discrimination and harassment
    redressed in published and enforced workplace policy
  • seeking to establish an education program for employees
    about workplace rights and the responsibilities workers and
    employers have to one another
  • seeking advice from the Australian Human Rights

Some students may decide that the best solution for Kenny and
Lian is to leave their jobs. If this is the case, discuss the
perpetuation of discrimination issues that arise in situations
where education about human rights is limited or quashed, and
what the possible long term affects on the workplace might

6: Presenting decisions to the class

Depending on time allocated, students could then create a
presentation that shows how they came to their final decisions.
They should also reflect on the understanding they have developed
about decision making on human rights and responsibilities in
this context. For example, some ideas they might emphasise in
their presentations could include:

  • the power imbalance between different parties and how this
    could be addressed
  • the importance of employees knowing what their rights are
    within the workplace
  • the obligations employers have to ensure a safe working
  • how and why it is difficult to satisfy all parties in an
    issue such as this
  • the advantages of discussion over confrontation in coming
    to a decision.

Encourage students to choose a communication strategy that
gets their message across in an entertaining and effective way.
This may include a role-play or drama created as:

  • a TV drama
  • a debate
  • a TV panel show
  • a staged vox pop session
  • a current affairs show
  • an interview
  • a courtroom drama
  • a TV/radio advertising campaign.

7: Class discussion and students' debriefing

Resources available:

  • Resource sheet: Making a complaint with the Commission

The class can now review the issues they have identified and
explored in their group presentations, including the difficulties
they had in coming to decisions that suit all parties. For
example, you might emphasise:

  • what understanding students have developed about human
    rights in the workplace
  • how individual rights work in relation to the consideration
    of the rights of others
  • how effectively negotiation can be used to resolve
  • the advantages of discussion over confrontation in coming
    to a decision
  • what could happen when a mutually agreed resolution is
    unable to be made
  • what courses of action might not be appropriate in some
    circumstances and why
  • when there may be a need to consult the Australian Human
    Rights Commission
  • the need to bring all parties together to ensure that they
    understand one another's rights and the appropriate ways to
    show respect for those rights.

The debriefing of students could also include information on
how this situation would be handled if it came before the
Australian Human Rights Commission. Some
information regarding the official complaint processes of the
Commission is provided at:

8: Applying the concepts

  • Activity sheet: Difference' and discrimination

Students should complete the activity called Difference and

This activity focuses on situations involving difference' and
identity in the students' daily lives - in the school, at home
and with their friends.

Students should think about the sorts of ways they may
consider themselves or others to be different', and about the
ways those they consider different may identify themselves. They
should then record some of their ideas in the grid on the

9: Difference' and career planning

Resources available:

  • Resource sheet: Difference' and career planning
  • Activity sheet: Three stories

Students use the five stories from young people that are
provided to complete the activity called Three stories.

This activity enables students to look at career choices that
may be unconventional or may not be stereotypical, and to see
what strategies young people have used to overcome the barriers,
prejudice and discrimination they have faced and how it might
apply to their own lives.