Youth Wages (Junior Rates

Junior rates apply to workers who are aged under 21. Juniors are paid a percentage of the adult minimum wage. 

Typically, 18 year olds are paid 70% of the adult rate, at 19 they get 80% and at 20 the they would be paid 90% of the adult rate. However, the relevant Award or Agreement will set out the exact rate you should be paid. Check out the list below.  

For many young workers, you still can’t get paid a full adult wage until you hit 21. Although junior rates are legal, unions have opposed junior rates as unfair and discriminatory against young workers. 

There are junior rates in the following industries and (note the applicable adult wage varies):

  • Fast Food Industry Award 2010 - percentage of applicable adult wage by age

(< 16 yrs = 40%, 16 yrs = 50%, 17 yrs = 60%, 18 yrs = 70%, 19 yrs = 80%, 20 yrs = 90%)

  • General Retail Industry Award 2010 - percentage of applicable adult wage by age

(< 16 yrs = 45%, 16 yrs = 50%, 17 yrs = 60%, 18 yrs = 70%, 19 yrs = 80%, 20 yrs, 90-95%)

  • Hospitality Industry Award 2010 (e.g. hotels, wine-bars, kitchen hands, unless you're serving alcohol) - percentage of applicable adult wage by age

(< 16 yrs = 50%, 17 yrs = 60%, 18 yrs = 70%, 19 yrs = 85%, 20 yrs = 100%)

  • Restaurant Industry Award 2010 (e.g. cafes, nightclubs. unless you're serving alcohol) - percentage of applicable adult wage by age

(< 16 yrs = 50%, 17 yrs = 60%, 18 yrs = 70%, 19 yrs = 85%, 20 yrs = 100%)

  • Children's services (unless you're Level 3 or above)
  • Clerical and office work
  • Hair and beauty (e.g. salons)
  • Health services (e.g. therapist, dietician, medical librarian)
  • Horticulture (e.g. vegetable or fruit picking)
  • Vehicles (e.g. car sales, tyre repair)

Young workers who handle or serve alcohol must be paid the adult rate regardless of their age. Young workers who only remove empty glasses that contained alcohol, or who mainly deliver food as part of general waiting duties, can still be paid the junior rate. 

Even if you are under 21 years old, you should be paid the full adult wage if:

  • your Award or Agreement does not provide for Junior Rates (so everyone gets the same rate, regardless of age), or
  • you have completed an Apprenticeship and are trade qualified. 

Trainee Pay Rates 

Some young workers may be employed as Trainees. This is where there is a formal training contract between you and your employer, and as a result there are special rates of pay. Like Junior Rates, Trainee Wages are also set out in the relevant Award or Agreement. 

Some dodgy employers use traineeships as a tricky way to pay young workers less. You can't be paid trainee rates just because you are new to a job or are being trained in a new task. You can only be paid trainee pay rates when you have a formal training contract with your employer and are signed up with a Registered Training Organisation (e.g. at TAFE/CIT). 

Scenario 1 

Tom is 17 and works as a casual in a fast food business. Tom read somewhere that the minimum wage is $19 an hour. He checks his pay slip and finds that his hourly rate is $16. Is he getting ripped off?

No, this is okay. This is because Tom is covered by the Fast Food Award. The Fast Food Award states that junior employees can be paid a certain amount, depending on how old they are, if they are part-time or casual, and if they supervise anyone else at work. This is fine as long as you are paid at the same or a higher rate than what is stated in the Award. 

Scenario 2 

Alice is 16 and just started working at another fast food business. The Manager, John, says that she will be paid at a trainee rate of $10 an hour for three months while she learns how to do the job. John says that after the three months, her wage will be the rate for a 16 year old.

This is not okay. You can only be paid as a trainee if you have a formal training contract with your employer. You cannot be paid less than what is required under the Award. The Fast Food Award states that Alice should be paid at least $12.99 an hour. 

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 loadings or penalties you are receiving. 

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.  

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

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