Your Minimum Wage Entitlements

Almost everybody can relate to a time in their life when they were living pay cheque to pay cheque. When you had to choose between buying groceries or filling up your car with petrol.

Perhaps you still are – if that’s the case, you’re not alone. Too many Australians have had to pick up a second job to make ends meet and one in four people have resorted to skipping meals.

But every worker has the right to live a decent life, which is why the minimum wage exists. And why unions continue to campaign for increases to the minimum wage to combat rising costs of living.

What is the minimum wage?

Put simply, the minimum wage is the lowest amount (or the base hourly rate) you can be paid for the work you do.

For the majority of workers, the minimum wage is set by the Award that covers your industry or occupation. But there are also a variety of factors that can determine what you earn, such as your employment type, age or work capacity.

The minimum wage doesn’t include additional payments you may be entitled to including bonuses, allowances, penalty rates or casual loading, which are paid on top of your wages.

In Australia, we have a national minimum wage which is the lowest rate employees can be legally paid, regardless of your job or industry. Anything below the national minimum wage is illegal unless you fall into one or more of the below categories:

  • Young workers under 21 years of age
  • Workers on the Supported Wage System
  • Apprentices and Trainees

Changes to the Minimum Wage

As mentioned earlier, unions have long advocated for increases to the minimum wage. Just this year, our campaign efforts paid off following a landmark decision by the Fair Work Commission to increase the minimum wage rate.

From 1 July 2023, the national minimum wage was lifted to $23.23 per hour.

Thanks to the endless campaigning by union members, almost three million workers will take home an additional $70.20 per week. 

The increase will also support workers on the Commonwealth paid parental scheme.

Award and Agreement Wages

Most workplaces are covered by an Award that sets out the minimum wage for a particular industry and is often higher than the national minimum wage.

Some workplaces are also covered by Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBAs) which set the rates of pay for one particular workplace or enterprise. Unions are nearly always involved in bargaining for an agreement which is a key reason why these rates are often higher than they would be if that workplace had no EBA.

The strongest EBAs are the ones negotiated by unionised employees – which is one of the reasons why 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. However, we know that people in insecure work arrangements are the most vulnerable due to the ongoing uncertainty and instability in their job.

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

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

Commission Payments and Piece Rates

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.

Young Workers

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.

AgePercentageHourly minimum
Under 1636.8%$8.55

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

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.

Apprenticeships and Traineeships

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.

The best way to achieve higher wages

Workers in Australian unions continue to negotiate higher pay in ways that ensure all members get a decent wage and a fair share. 

You shouldn’t have to scrape by to make ends meet. Union members earn, on average, $250 more per week than non-union members. 

Earn higher wages as a union member

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the minimum wage in Australia?

The Australian minimum hourly wage is currently $23.23 per hour.

In 2023, the Australian minimum wage for a standard 38 hours work week equates to $882.80 per week.

You can use the following simple formula to calculate the annual minimum wage: $882.80 per week × 52 workweeks in a year = $45,905.60.

What is the minimum wage in Victoria?

The minimum hourly wage in Victoria is $23.23 per hour, the same as the rest of the country.

The goal of the National minimum wage is to protect workers against low pay.

Setting this clear hourly rate helps ensure that workers benefit from the fruits of their labour and that employers are properly sharing the profits that workers help to create.

Can you live on the minimum wage in Australia?

The general consensus is that today, it is very difficult to live on the minimum wage in Australia.

In 2023, the minimum wage was $3,531.20 per month.
In 2019, the living wage was estimated to be $1,180 to $1,900 per month for a single adult.
For a typical family, this can vary from $1,730 to $2,980.

For an individual adult Australian on an extremely limited and organised budget, it may be possible to live on this amount.

But the reality is that for those with dependents or any other financial requirements, it’s a very meagre amount and will be challenging to live on for most Australians.

Some charities have stated that, to deliver a real living wage, the minimum wage should be increased to $25 per hour.

Which employees can be paid less than minimum wage in Australia?

No employees can be paid less than their applicable minimum wage.

However, different minimum wages may apply to workers who are younger than 21.

What is the minimum wage in Australia for 15-year-olds?

Employers in Australia are legally allowed to pay workers under 16 years old $8.55 per hour.

This equates to 36.8 per cent of the Australian minimum wage for legal adults.

Wages for young people in Australia are variable and are often affected by age, details of your traineeship or apprenticeship, whether you’re full-time, part-time or casual and any other awards, agreements or laws that apply to your job.

How is minimum wage determined in Australia?

Currently, the Fair Work Commission, an independent body, calculates the national minimum wage.

The minimum wage of $882.80 per week is calculated on the basis of working 38 hours at $23.23 per hour.

Every year, the Fair Work Commission convenes a panel of experts to review the minimum wage.

The panel considers a range of sources and materials including written submissions from organisations and individuals, consultations with industry experts, and a range of papers, research and studies.

At the end of the Commission’s review, a national minimum wage order is made. This new minimum wage will apply from the first full pay period after 1 July.

What is the minimum wage for an apprentice in Australia?

In Australia, an apprentice is usually paid a training wage which is often less than the national minimum wage if they are under 21 years old.

The minimum wage for an apprentice in Australia varies with years of schooling. As of 1 July 2022, it ranges from $517.50 to $893.86 per week for those under 21 working full-time.

For apprentices aged 21 years or above, the minimum hourly rate starts at $19.81 for a first-year adult apprentice.

What is the minimum wage for casual employees in Australia?

Your rate of pay depends on what agreement, or Award covers your workplace and the type of work you do.

If you are a casual employee in Australia, you are very likely to be entitled to receive a casual loading on top of your basic hourly rate of pay.

Casual loading is usually up to an additional 25 per cent of your hourly rate of pay, as compensation for not getting annual leave, sick pay or other forms of job security The national minimum wage for a casual employee over the age of 21 is $29.04 per hour, but you should check first if you are covered by a better rate of pay in an Award or Agreement.

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