Minimum wages

A minimum wage is the lowest amount you can be paid for doing a certain job. 

They refer to the base hourly rate that you receive. They don’t include extra amounts that you might be entitled to like bonuses, allowances, penalty rates or casual loading. Extra amounts like these must be paid on top of whatever minimum wage applies to you. 

Different minimum wages apply to different people. Which minimum wage applies to you depends on where you work, how old you are, and a few other things explained below.

The national minimum wage is the lowest rate at which you can be paid, no matter what job you are doing. The only employees who can be paid less than the national minimum wage are:

  • Young workers aged 21
  • Workers on the Supported Wage System
  • Apprentices and Trainees

For everyone else, the national minimum wage is the absolute lowest you can be paid. It is illegal for your boss to pay you less.

The Fair Work Commission reviews and adjusts the minimum wage every year. The union movement campaigns for it to be increased, while big businesses usually lobby for it to be frozen or cut back.

As of 1 July 2020, the national minimum wage is $19.84 per hour or $753.80 per week.

Casual employees covered by the national minimum wage get an additional 25% pay.

Most workplaces are covered by an award. Awards set the minimum wages for a particular industry, which is often higher than the national minimum wage.

Some workplaces are also covered by enterprise bargaining agreements. Agreements set the rates of pay for one particular workplace or enterprise. These rates are often higher than they would be if that workplace had no enterprise bargaining agreement.

Enterprise bargaining agreements are usually negotiated by unionised employees. This is one of the reasons that union workers usually get paid more than non-union workers.

Casual employees typically receive a loading, or higher rate of pay under awards and agreements to make up for not getting leave and other entitlements.

Employees might also be covered by a contract of employment which can provide for a higher rate of pay again.

If you are unsure if you are covered by an award or agreement or which one, get in touch with your union.

Some jobs pay according to how much work you get done, rather than how many hours you work. Often these jobs are still covered by an award or agreement, which means that you should be paid at a rate above the national minimum wage.

Even if your job is not covered by an award or agreement, it’s not fair for your employer to pay you less than the national minimum wage. Your union can give you advice about what to do if your employer does try to pay you at a rate that is too low.

Different minimum wages may apply to workers who are younger than 21.

Minimum wages for young workers are calculated as a percentage of the national minimum wage. This table shows the minimum rate you can be paid, depending on your age.

Age Percentage Hourly minimum
Under 16 36.8% $7.30
16 47.3% $9.38
17 57.8% $11.46
18 68.3% $13.55
19 82.5% $16.36
20 97.7% $19.38

If you are covered by certain awards or enterprise bargaining agreements, the percentage young workers are paid can be different and you may be entitled to the full adult minimum wage rather than the young worker minimum wage.

The Supported Wage System applies to employees who have a disability that reduces their capacity to work.

If you are on the Supported Wage System, your minimum wage will be calculated as a percentage of what someone without a disability would earn if they were doing the same job.

It’s up to the Department of Social Services to decide whether you should be paid a Supported Wage System rate – your boss cannot make this decision. It’s also up to the Department of Social Services to assess your capacity and to decide what rate you should be paid at.

Different minimum wages apply to workers who are under a registered training agreement, like an apprenticeship or a traineeship.

These minimum wages depend on what job you are doing and how old you are. Depending on what kind of work you are doing, your minimum wage might also increase the longer you spend there. It might also increase as you get better at doing your job.

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