Modern Awards

In Australia, most private businesses are part of the national workplace relations system. This system is defined by the Fair Work Act of 2009 and includes rules and bodies that enforce minimum job conditions. This Act spells out the basic rules for work conditions in the National Employment Standards (NES), modern awards, and agreements between enterprises.

Modern awards are special rules that give the minimum work conditions for employees in certain industries or jobs. If you’re running a business or employing people, you need to make sure you follow these awards where they apply. This can be tricky because different awards might apply to different kinds of work or industries your business is involved in. Plus, if your company does a mix of things or has many job types, not all your employees might fall under the same award, or any at all.

It’s very important to understand which modern awards apply to your business and to keep up with any updates to them. We’re here to help you make sense of modern awards and how they affect your business.

What Is A Modern Award?

Explaining Modern Awards in Simple Terms

Modern awards act as a safety net providing the minimum pay and conditions for employees based on the specific job they do and the industry they work in. What this means is, if you have a job, there’s likely a modern award that spells out the least amount you should be paid, the number of hours you should work, overtime and penalty rates you’re entitled to, and other work conditions like breaks, leave, and rosters.

These conditions are influenced by several factors including whether you’re full-time, part-time, or casual, your job responsibilities, your level of expertise or experience, and even the hours and location of your work. It’s important to note that the benefits outlined in a modern award can never be less than what’s provided by the national minimum wage or the National Employment Standards (NES).

The NES is like a foundation that guarantees 11 basic employment rights to all employees in the national system. These rights include:

  • Maximum weekly hours of work
  • Requests for flexible working arrangements
  • Parental leave and related entitlements
  • Annual leave
  • Personal/carer’s leave, compassionate leave, and community service leave
  • Long service leave
  • Public holidays
  • Notice of termination and redundancy pay
  • The right to be free from discrimination and harassment
  • The right to a safe and healthy work environment

However, casual workers might not be eligible for all these benefits due to the nature of their employment. These rules make sure that everyone gets a fair deal at work according to what they do and where they do it.

Who Do Modern Awards Apply To?

Modern awards are meant to apply to many employees who are part of the national workplace relations system. But it’s important to understand that not everyone fits into this category. Some workers might be under a different system, like a registered or enterprise agreement, which sets their pay and conditions. Also, there are certain jobs or industries where the modern award system doesn’t apply at all. This means that while a lot of people are covered by modern awards, there are exceptions based on the specific details of where and how someone works.

What if An Award Doesn’t Apply?

If an award doesn’t apply to someone’s job, then they will most likely fall under the national minimum wage and NES as their base level of rights and entitlements. This is still important because it sets a standard for basic working conditions that all employees should have regardless of the type of work they do. Employers are responsible for making sure they comply with these requirements and employees have the right to report any breaches or issues.

Common Awards

Explanation of Common Modern Awards

The range of modern awards is designed to cover most industries and occupations to ensure fair working conditions across the board. Here’s a simple breakdown of some of these awards:

  • Aged Care Award 2010: This award applies to employees working in aged care facilities, providing care and support to elderly residents. It sets standards for pay, work hours, and other conditions.
  • Building and Construction General On-site Award 2020: This covers workers in the construction industry, including laborers, tradespeople, and site managers, focusing on their salaries, safety standards, and work hours.
  • Children’s Services Award 2010: This award is for those working in child care and early childhood education settings, detailing pay scales, qualifications required, and working conditions.
  • Clerks – Private Sector Award 2020: This applies to office workers, including administration, data entry, and other clerical roles, outlining pay, work hours, and office environment standards.
  • Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010: Employees in salons and beauty parlors, from hairdressers to beauticians, are covered under this award for fair pay, work conditions, and health and safety regulations.
  • Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2020: This award sets the standards for workers in the hospitality sector, including hotels, bars, and restaurants, focusing on pay rates and working hours.
  • General Retail Industry Award 2020: Retail employees, from shop assistants to store managers, are covered by this award, which includes provisions for pay, working hours, and breaks.
  • Real Estate Industry Award 2020: This award applies to those working in real estate, including agents and property managers, covering commissions, standard working hours, and employment terms.
  • Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2020: Employees in manufacturing, from assembly line workers to technicians, are covered under this award, which details pay scales, safety regulations, and working hours.
  • Miscellaneous Award 2020: This serves as a catch-all for jobs not covered by other awards, ensuring a minimum set of working conditions are met.
  • Vehicle Repair, Services and Retail Award 2020: This covers workers in the automotive industry, including mechanics, service technicians, and salespeople, outlining conditions related to pay, work hours, and safety standards.

Each award is tailored to the specific needs and duties of its industry or occupation, ensuring that employees receive fair treatment and employers understand their obligations.

Understanding Modern Awards and Employee Entitlements

When an employee is covered by a modern award, as an employer, you’re legally required to provide at least the minimum pay and benefits outlined in that award. This depends on the job role, the hours worked, and the specific timing of those hours. It’s crucial to understand that your business might be governed by more than one modern award. For instance, if you run a construction business, your administrative staff and on-site workers might fall under different awards, with distinct minimum entitlements and conditions.

Also, an employee’s duties, level of experience, and qualifications can affect their classification and minimum pay rate within the relevant award. For example, a newly graduated physiotherapist will have a different minimum pay rate compared to a colleague with five years of experience. As employees develop their skills or gain additional qualifications, it’s important to reassess their classification under the modern award to ensure their pay continues to reflect their value accurately.


Modern awards are legal documents that outline the minimum pay rates and conditions of employment. They are specific to different industries or occupations and apply on top of the national employment standards.

To determine if your business is covered by a modern award, you need to consider the nature of the work performed by your employees and the industry within which your business operates. The Fair Work Ombudsman’s website provides tools and resources that can help you identify relevant awards.

Non-compliance with a modern award can result in significant penalties for businesses. This can include back payment of wages, fines, and in some severe cases, legal action. Ensuring compliance not only avoids these penalties but also supports fair work practices.

Typically, an employee will be covered by a single modern award based on their principal purpose of employment. However, in complex employment arrangements, it’s possible for more than one award to apply. It’s essential to assess the coverage and entitlements under each relevant award.

Modern awards are regularly reviewed by the Fair Work Commission to ensure they remain fair and relevant. Updates can occur annually, especially regarding pay rates following the national minimum wage review, or when there are significant changes in the industry.

The specific entitlements for each modern award can be found on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website. This includes detailed information on pay rates, overtime, penalties, allowances, and other conditions of employment. Employers can search for awards by name or industry to find relevant information.

Contact us now!

With the introduction of the minimum wage increase, staying informed about your employees’ entitlements has never been more significant. This ensures your compliance with modern awards and protects your business from potential legal pitfalls. For guidance on modern awards, their coverage, and applicable pay rates, don’t hesitate to contact us for free initial advice.

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