For over one hundred years, Australia has had laws that set a minimum rate of pay for all workers. This minimum rate of pay is legally enforceable.

The minimum wage is a ‘base rate of pay’. It does not include any additional amounts that a worker might be entitled to such as bonuses or allowances, or penalty rates for working overtime or working shift work, weekends, or public holidays. 

The minimum wage rate is set by the Fair Work Commission, and is reviewed each year. In 2020, the Fair Work Commission has decided to increase the minimum wage by 1.7% for all minimum wage and Award workers (approximately 2 million workers) but the increase applies to different workers at different times.

Until your industry's increase date (see below), the minimum wage continues to be $19.49 per hour, or $740.80 per week (38 hours) or $24.36 per hour for casuals. Remember, your Award might provide for a higher rate than the national minimum wage. After your industry's increase, the minimum wage that applies to you will be $19.84 per hour.

The increase to awards will happen in 3 groups.

Group 1 Awards - from 1 July 2020

  • Frontline Heath Care & Social Assistance Workers
  • Teachers and Child Care
  • Other Essential Services

Group 2 Awards - from 1 November 2020

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • A range of other industries

Group 3 Awards - from 1 February 2021

  • Accommodation and Food Services
  • Arts and Recreation Services
  • Aviation
  • Retail
  • Tourism

Who gets the minimum wage? 

All workers who are over the age of 21 (not getting junior rates) and are not an apprentice or trainee (not getting apprentice or trainee rates) must be paid at least the adult minimum wage. Many workers will be paid more. Your Award will quite possibly set a higher pay rate for you. Check with us if you're not sure: youngworkerscbr@unionsact.org.au

It is illegal for an employer to pay less than the minimum wage. Even if an employee agrees to be paid less, the employer cannot pay them less than the minimum wage. 

If you are paid under a Modern Award or an Enterprise Agreement, you must be paid at least this rate, but you may be paid more. Check your Award or Agreement or try out the pay calculator on our website or ask us for advice. The minimum wage increase does not apply to workers who are paid under Enterprise Agreements - your Enterprise Agreement has all the rules about your rates of pay and pay increases. 

There are special minimum wages for workers who are trainees or apprentices, some workers who are younger than 21 years and some workers who have a disability. You can find out more about Junior and Trainee rates here. And you can find out about Apprentice rates here. 

Casual workers
Casual workers should receive a further 25% loading on top of the minimum wage. This is to compensate for not receiving the same entitlements that permanent workers receive, such as paid leave. The minimum wage for casual workers (including the 25% casual loading) will be $24.80 after your industry's increase date.

How do I know if I am being paid the minimum wage? 

You can check if you are being paid at the correct rate by checking your pay slip. Your pay slip should clearly indicate your rate of pay, and whether you are receiving casual loading. If you are not receiving a pay slip, you can talk to your employer.  

Scenario 1

It is after 1 February 2021. Lauren is a 21 year old university student and works as a casual at a restaurant. She checks her pay slip and it says she is being paid $16 per hour. She talks to her manager, Michael, who also owns the restaurant, about it. He says that he cannot afford to pay her $24.80 per hour (national minimum wage plus 25% casual loading) and instead lets her have a free drink every shift to compensate. 

This is not okay. It is illegal to pay workers less than the minimum wage and free food and drink is not a substitute for being paid properly. Lauren should get in touch with the Young Workers Centre to check her Award and make sure she is not supposed to be on a higher rate.

Scenario 2
Jun is a 16 year old student who works as a casual at a fast food restaurant. He is paid $13.61 per hour on weekdays. He is not sure if this is the right rate because it is below the adult minimum wage.

This is okay. Jun is being paid the correct rate for a 16 year old under the Fast Food Industry Award 2010. If Jun works on weekends and public holidays, he must be paid more (see the fact sheet on penalty rates).

What do I do if I think I am not being paid properly? 

To check if you are being paid properly, you can check your pay slip. Your pay slip should clearly state the amount you are being paid, and list any casual loading or penalties you are receiving. See the fact sheet on pay slips for more.

If you think you are not being paid properly, get in touch with us. We can give you advice about what you are entitled to, and help you decide what to do. We can also direct you to other people who can help. Email youngworkerscbr@unionsact.org.au

To find out more about how to join your union, visit http://www.unionsact.org.au/joinyourunion/ or have a look at our fact sheet here.

Authorised M Harrison for UnionsACT, 11 London Circuit, Canberra ACT 2601.

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