All Australian workers are entitled to a minimum wage and set of basic conditions and rights at work. Your wage is set out in your award or agreement and it can not fall below the Federal Minimum Wage. Your wage will also be determined by your job classification and any over-award payment your employer provides.
Federal Minimum Wage
The Federal Minimum Wage is reviewed every year. As of 1 July 2012, the minimum wage will be $15.96 per hour or $606.40 per week (see table of classification levels).
This wage rate is the minimum wage for an adult permanent worker employed by a company. (Note that minimum wages for workers in some States are different.)
Casual workers should receive a loading on top of the permanent hourly rate of between 15% and 25%.
Wages for Junior workers (people under 21), apprentices and trainees are usually less than the adult rate.
The wage rate that applies to you might be different to the Federal Minimum Wage. Wage rates for different industries, occupations, employers and job types are set out in awards and agreements.
To find out the wage rate you should be paid you can call your union or for free advice phone the Union Helpline on 1300 4 UNION.
You might be classified as a permanent or casual worker, or you might be a sub-contractor.
Permanent workers might be full-time (working 38 hours per week) or part-time (working less than 38 hours per week).
Permanent workers have an expectation of ongoing employment and regular shifts, and are paid annual leave, sick leave and other types of leave and entitlements.
Casual workers are employed on a shift-to-shift basis and are not paid annual or sick leave. Casual workers have a higher hourly rate of pay to compensate for their lack of conditions and the insecurity of their employment.
Sub-contractors are not technically employees and the minimum wage does not apply to sub-contractors. Sub-contractors run their own businesses and typically work one-off jobs, setting their own hours, and using their own equipment. They negotiate the cost of their labour with the business that they enter into a contract with.
Sub-contractors should take care to ensure that they are not in a ‘sham arrangement’, whereby they are actually being required to work as an employee but are being paid as a contractor.
For advice on this matter you can call the ACTU Worker’s Helpline on 1300 362 223.
You should be paid for every hour of work that you do, whether that work is a trial shift or part of ongoing employment.
It is illegal to work trial shifts and to not be paid, or to be paid under the minimum rate of pay for that work. Unpaid trial shifts are unpaid wages, and you can lodge an unpaid wages claim if you are not paid for a trial.
Overtime Pay, Penalty Rates and Allowances
Overtime pay, penalty rates and allowances provisions are set out in awards and agreements.
In many jobs employers can request employees to work reasonable overtime (work in excess of ordinary hours). In most circumstances employees are entitled to a higher rate of pay for overtime work. These rates are set out in the award or agreement that covers the work.
Many awards and agreements include additional rates of pay for working evenings, nights, weekends or Public Holidays called penalty rates.
You may also be entitled to allowances such as shift allowances, uniform and meal allowances. Check your award or agreement or talk to our union to find out what penalties and allowances you should be paid.
At a minimum you have to be paid monthly. Many awards and agreements will require fortnightly or weekly payments.
Payslips are a condition of workplace law. Your employer is required to give you a pay slip in hard copy or electronic form within one working day of being paid.
If you are being paid in cash, be wary that you are receiving the correct pay. Keep your own records of the date and the amount of each pay.
Businesses can be investigated and fined by the Fair Work Ombudsman for failing to provide payslips or for failing to pay on time.
Superannuation and Tax
All eligible workers should be paid at least 9% of each pay into your superannuation fund.
Superannuation saves money towards workers’ retirements, or it can also be accessed in the case of an injury or illness resulting in you being unable to continue working.
An employee is eligible to be paid super if they are:
- Aged between 18 years and 70 years old; and
- Paid at least $450 (before tax) in a calendar month.
Workers under 18 only have to be paid super if they work more than 30 hours per week.
If you think that your employer is not contributing to your super, you should ask your employer if you are receiving super, how much super you are being paid and into which fund it is being paid.
If you know your super fund, you can call them to check that your super is being paid.
If your employer is not paying your super and does not respond to your inquiry, call your union for assistance.
Your tax should also be being paid out of your pay, and the amount of tax that you’ve paid should be visible on your payslip.
Your employer is also required to provide you with a group certificate for tax purposes.
If you are concerned that your employer is not paying your tax correctly or not providing you with a group certificate you can report this to the Australian Taxation Office.
Have You Been Underpaid?
It is illegal for your employer to pay you less than what is set out in your award or agreement. This includes your hourly rate as well as your allowances and entitlements.
If you are being underpaid:
- Keep your payslips (if they are being given to you), or keep a diary of the dates and amounts that you are paid.
- Talk to your co-workers. Are they being paid properly, or are you all being underpaid? It is easier and more effective to confront your boss about underpayment as a group than individually.
- Tell your boss that you need to be paid at the correct and legal rate. You are also entitled to back pay for the pay that you have missed out on. Consider writing this in a letter.
- It is illegal for an employer to sack you because you have asked for the correct pay. If you lose your job because you asked to be paid correctly or lodged a complaint, then you can lodge an unlawful termination claim.
- Call your union for help. If you are not with your union, join. Encourage your co-workers to join too. Phone the Union Helpline for free advice on 1300 4 UNION.
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