The minimum wage – what is it and where do I stand?


Whether you’re an Australian resident on a temporary work visa, a casual member of staff or a contractor, being paid a fair wage for a day’s work and minimum wage laws is an important issue. The National Employment Standards (NES) was introduced on 1 January 2010 to provide a national benchmark for minimum wages in Australia.

What are minimum wage laws?

Minimum award wages fall under modern awards under The Fair Work Act. According to Fair Work Australia, modern Awards are industry or occupation-based enforceable minimum employment standards which apply in addition to the NES. Modern awards contain terms and conditions about:

  • Minimum wages
  • Overtime and penalty rates
  • Types of employment
  • Work arrangements (eg. rosters, variation to working hours)
  • Hours of work
  • Rest breaks
  • Classifications
  • Allowances
  • Leave and leave loadings
  • Superannuation
  • Procedures for consultation, representation and dispute settlement.

Some modern awards also contain terms about redundancy. It is important to note that modern awards may not apply to some managers or employees who have guaranteed annual earnings of more than $108,300, even if a modern award covers the industry in which they work.

Seek advice

Visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website to check if you’re paid the right entitlements. The website has a handy calculator so you can work out whether you are being paid the correct wage. You can find out more about the national minimum wageleave entitlements and the different types of employment and entitlements.

Speak to management

If possible you should try and resolve matters at an organisational level before seeking further assistance. Approach your direct supervisor or someone you trust such as a work safety representative, or someone from human resources (HR) to discuss whether you are being paid the right entitlements.

Make a complaint

If a matter cannot be dealt with through organisational processes, then external options may be considered. You can make a workplace complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman in regards to the following:

  • You are not receiving the correct pay;
  • You are not receiving the right conditions for example annual leave;
  • You are not receiving the correct workplace rights for example someone tried to force you to sign an agreement;
  • You believe you are being discriminated against in the workplace.

Visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website to find out more about find out about the different kinds of workplace complaints, when and how to make a complaint, documents you require, privacy issues and what happens during the resolution process.

Proceed with legal action

If your complaint cannot be resolved at the organisation level or through the Fair Work Ombudsman, you may want to seek legal action. Our employment lawyers in Sydney are able to advise you about your rights in regards to minimum wage laws, discrimination and employment law. Contact our Employment Law Team during business hours on 1800 770 780 for advice on minimum wage laws and workplace rights.

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