Employment Agencies

Public and Private Employment Agencies

In Australia, the government authority in charge of employment at federal level is Centrelink.

Centrelink offices provide a range of customer services covering: education, training and youth affairs; employment; health and family services; primary industries and energy; and social security.

Centrelink offices also provide many services including: advice and information regarding the government’s Jobs, Education and Training (JET) programme; registration and acceptance of new applicants for income support and employment assistance; self-help job facilities, including computer access to a national job vacancies database; and specialist labour market assistance services for disadvantaged groups, including Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, migrants, people with disabilities, single parents and young people. Centrelink has a comprehensive website (www.centrelink.gov.au ) which provides the latest information on Centrelink services. The Centrelink employment service can be reached on Tel. 13-2850 (local call cost from anywhere in Australia).

Private Employment Agencies

Private employment agencies abound in all major cities and towns in Australia and are big business. Private agencies find work for almost 100,000 people annually, although nearly two-thirds of them are engaged in casual work. Many large companies are happy to engage agents and consultants to recruit employees, particularly executives, managers, professionals and temporary staff.

There are four main types of private agency in Australia: personnel consultants, labour hire contractors, student employment services and employment agencies. Personnel consultants (head-hunters) handle mostly executive, managerial and professional positions (accountants are in demand), although there’s some overlap with general employment agencies. Labour hire contractors handle jobs for skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers and tend to be located in industrial areas rather than the main streets of major cities.

The largest number of agencies simply come under the generic term ‘employment agencies’. Some specialise in particular fields or industries: accounting; agriculture; au pairs and nannies; banking; carers; computing; engineering and technical; hospitality; industrial and manual work; legal; medical and nursing; mining; outback jobs; resort work; sales; secretarial; and tourism. Others deal with a range of industries and professions. Some agencies deal exclusively with temporary workers in a variety of occupations, including baby-sitters, chauffeurs, cleaners, cooks, gardeners, hairdressers, housekeepers, industrial workers, labourers, office staff and security guards. Care, nanny and nursing agencies are common and usually cover the whole range of nursing services. Many agencies handle both permanent and temporary positions.

Agencies are usually prohibited from charging a fee to job applicants, as they receive their fees from clients, although in some states they may charge a registration fee (check first). For permanent staff, the fee paid by the employer is a percentage of the annual salary (e.g. 10 per cent); for temporary staff, agencies take a percentage of the hourly rate paid by employers. If you take a temporary job through an agency, you’re paid by the agency, usually weekly or fortnightly, which may include paid public and annual holidays after a qualifying period. Always obtain a contract and ensure that you know exactly how much you will be paid and when, and the conditions regarding the termination of a job.

Agencies must deduct income tax from gross pay and you’re required to give an agency your tax file number within a few weeks of starting work; otherwise they must deduct tax at the highest marginal tax rate. Salaries vary considerably according to the type of job, but most secretarial jobs pay between $14 and $20 per hour. You usually receive extra pay (loading) for weekend and night work, and there are allowances (called tropical loading or remote area allowances) for jobs in remote areas of Northern Territory and Western Australia (above the Tropic of Capricorn).

Employment agencies earn a great deal of money from finding people jobs so, provided you have something to offer their clients, they’re keen to help you (if you’re an experienced accountant, nurse or secretary you may get trampled in the rush). If they cannot help you, they usually tell you immediately and won’t waste your time.

When visiting employment agencies, you should dress appropriately for the type of job you’re seeking, and take with you your bank details (if you want to get paid!), curriculum vitae (CV), passport (with a visa if applicable), references and tax file number (TFN). Office staff may be given a typing or literacy test (if applicable) and some agencies have in-house training programmes for secretarial staff. You should register with a number of agencies to maximise your chances of finding work. Keep in close contact and try to provide a telephone number where you can be reached; otherwise you should ring in every day.

There’s a plethora of employment agencies in Australia, many operating nationally with offices in all major cities, while others operate in one or two cities only. Among the larger agencies operating nationwide or in most major cities are Accountancy Placements, ADIA, Alfred Marks, BDS Challenge International, Brook Street, Catalyst Recruitment Systems, Centacom, Centastaff, Computer People, Dial-an-Angel, Drake Personnel, Ecco Personnel, Forstaff, IPA Personnel, Job Network, Julia Ross Personnel, Kelly Services, Key People, Manpower, Metier Personnel, Morgan & Banks, Select Appointments, Skilled Work Force, Temporary Solutions, Templine and Western Staff Services. Check the yellow pages for local offices of these and other agencies. If you’re travelling around Australia and plan to work in a number of major cities, you may find it advantageous to work for an agency with offices nationwide.

To find local agencies, look in the yellow pages under ‘ Employment Agencies’ and in local newspapers. Employment agencies are increasingly using the internet to advertise job vacancies, which speeds up the response and processing of job applications. Many Australian agencies employing temporary staff advertise overseas in publications targeted at those with working holidaymaker visas. A list of agencies specialising in particular jobs or fields is contained in Live, Work & Play in Australia by Sharyn McCullum (Kangaroo Press).

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Australia. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here:

Other comments

  • Patrick Comerford, 28 March 2009 Reply

    Question of accuracy

    The information provided here is mostly inaccurate. Employment agents, by definition, are those businesses funded by the Commonwealth Govt to help unemployed people find work. There are various types of contracts bu the main ones are Job Network Members. These businesses are not funded to assist Skilled Migrants until such time as they have Australian citizenship. The rest of the organisations referred to in this article are recruitment firms and labour hire firms. There are specialist private employment agents who charge candidates to help them secure work. One example is Catapult People, a business which specialises in assisting onshore and offshore skilled migrants.