A modern award is an instrument that records the minimum conditions of employment for employees it covers. These conditions are enforceable under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act). In Australia, there 122 modern awards.

A modern award will apply to your employees if you are a national system employer and:

  • you employ a person within the coverage clause of the award; and
  • the employee falls within the award classifications.

Modern awards are generally national, rather than confined to State or Territory boundaries.

However, if you are a private sector employer in Western Australia and not a constitutional corporation, the only awards that apply to you will be State awards (the coverage of which depends on their scope).

Each modern award includes classification levels. The primary consideration when determining an employee’s modern award classification is the skill or competency level required in the type of work the employee performs – not the actual duties they perform in their role.

Modern award classification levels often provide a list of typical duties or skills for each classification level. However, these are not exhaustive and are a guide only.

Employees at any particular level may not perform all of the duties or use all of the skills described in their classification. Additionally, employees at a particular classification level may be expected to undertake duties of any level lower than their own.

Most modern awards require you to state the award classification for each employee in writing. You can state this in:

  • new employees’ letters of engagement or pay slips; or
  • the memos you issue at existing employees’ next salary reviews.

However, you may prevent a modern award from applying to an eligible employee’s employment by entering into a guarantee of annual earnings with them.


Top stories for Modern Awards


Your questions answered: Are part-time employees entitled to overtime rates?

Modern Awards

Q Our employee who is on a part-time contract with a set amount of hours per day is occasionally required to work additional hours. Are they entitled to overtime rates for these hours? A It would depend on the employee’s […]

By Portner Press on May 22nd, 2019

Your questions answered: How can we move our staff away from awards?

Modern Awards

Q Our staff are currently on various awards and we would like to move away from having to follow these awards. If we amend our current contracts of employment and ‘annualise‘ the remuneration (taking into account all allowances and entitlements, and the […]

By Portner Press on April 29th, 2019

Your questions answered: Can we deduct overpayments from wages?

Modern Awards

Can you please advise if we are able to ask for money back and would we be able to deduct from [the employees] wages each week going forward?

By Portner Press on March 25th, 2019

Can you recover wages or super payments made by mistake?

Modern Awards

If you pay money to an employee or a super fund because of a mistaken belief that you had to, you can recover the monies paid unless...

By Charles Power on February 25th, 2019

McDonald’s franchisee disputes worker break entitlements

Modern Awards

A McDonald’s franchisee told its employees that if they took a 10-minute break they would not be able to have a drink of water or be allowed to use the toilet for the rest of their shift.

By Portner Press on February 15th, 2019

What the new casual conversion clause means for you

Modern Awards

Do you employ casuals? Important changes affect you NOW

By Hannah Pelka-Caven on January 21st, 2019

Employer caught ripping off holiday workers – again!

Modern Awards

  A former manager of a resort restaurant in Queensland faces legal action from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) for a third time in three years for continuing to underpay staff. The FWO alleges that nine employees of the Fire […]

By Portner Press on January 11th, 2019

Penalty rate increases for 350,000 retail staff

Modern Awards

  As part of its four year review of modern awards, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has increased casual retail workers’ penalty rates for weekday evening shifts and Saturdays, but reduced them for Sunday shifts. The reduction of Sunday penalty […]

By Charles Power on October 12th, 2018
Balance between work and family life

Flexible work arrangement requests: 4 steps employers must follow

Modern Awards

As part of its four year review of modern awards, the FWC has recently published a model term to guide employers in dealing with requests for flexible working arrangements.

By Charles Power on October 8th, 2018

7 steps to meet your domestic violence leave privacy obligations

Modern Awards

Effective from 1 August 2018, all award-based full-time, part-time and casual employees are entitled to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave.

By Portner Press on September 24th, 2018