More than half of young Canberrans were underpaid in the past year, a new report released Tuesday has found.
UnionsACT surveyed 310 working Canberrans aged 14 to 25, with 62.4 per cent reporting being underpaid by their employers.
Only a quarter of those surveyed - or 24.7 per cent - reported trying to recover their entitled wages.
One in three women - or 33.1 per cent of women surveyed - reported gender-based discrimination over that same period.
Young women were also underpaid more often than young men, with 55 per cent of women underpaid, compared to half of the men surveyed.
The report called for stronger legislation to protect young workers, as well as increased awareness campaigns on young worker's rights.
Recommended legislative changes included penalties for record-keeping failures, expanded investigation powers for the Community Services directorate, introducing on the spot penalties for work safety breaches and allowing third-parties - like unions - to initiate civil prosecutions.
The report pointed to Workplace Health and Safety laws in NSW as a good model for the latter proposal.
UnionsACT secretary Alex White said young Canberra workers were facing a "wage-theft crisis".
"Dodgy employers are increasingly taking the calculated risk when it comes to wage-theft that they won't be caught, or if they are, there will be few consequences," Mr White said.
"The solution is to restore the rights of unions to represent workers quickly, simply and inexpensively in a specialised small-claims tribunal in the industrial magistrates court."
The report also found nearly half of respondents had been injured or hurt at work over the past 12 months. This could range from minor to serious injuries.
It recommended making the reporting of workplace incidents involved under-18s as mandatory, as well as creating a register of incidents that allowed prospective employees or their parents to see how safe the work place was.
Almost three quarters of respondents had experienced bullying or harassment at work, with 62 per cent reporting being bullied by a customer or client.
The report took aim at the insecure nature of casualised work, with 35 per cent of respondents finding it difficult to get the shifts they needed to cover their living costs.
More than half - or 60.7 per cent - had delayed seeing a doctor because of the costs, with 58.5 per cent delaying buying medicines or filling prescriptions.
Respondents reported being too scared to report health and safety issues or underpayment out of fear of losing their jobs.
"Young workers are particularly vulnerable to experiences of wage theft because of the casualised and insecure nature of their work," the report said.
"They are also less likely to report or seek the recovery of their wages for the same reasons."