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


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

Your questions answered: What if a worker misses their morning tea break?

Modern Awards

If a worker misses their morning tea break, are they entitled to add the 15 minutes to their lunch break?

By Portner Press on August 3rd, 2018

Changes that will affect employers in FY 2018-19

Modern Awards

  In 2018-2019, employers should familiarise themselves with changes commencing 1 July. Superannuation While the SGC obligation remains at 9.5% of the employee’s ordinary time earnings, this will apply to the increased base of $54,030 of the employee’s quarterly earnings. […]

By Charles Power on June 27th, 2018

Crackdown on employers who dodge paying worker entitlements

Modern Awards

The Federal Government is concerned that certain corporate employers and associated parties are increasingly adopting a range of questionable practices that seek to shift the cost of outstanding employee entitlements onto the FEG scheme.

By Lauren Drummond on June 18th, 2018