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The Fair Work Act is a piece of Australian legislation that provides strict rules and regulations about the treatment and conditions of employees and incorporates the National Employment Standards. Whilst this legislation outlines the minimum standards, several modern awards apply for different industries and occupations across the country. These awards provide for minimum entitlements in certain sectors and jobs. 

What Is a Modern Award?

A modern award is an industrial instrument that outlines the minimum employment terms and conditions for workers in particular industries and occupations under the Fair Work Act. Indeed, the term ‘modern’ refers to the review and consolidation of more than 1,500 industrial awards into the modern awards, which occurred in 2010. 

It may be challenging to determine which award applies to your employees. In fact, it is common for one workplace to have more than one award. 

For example, perhaps you operate a plumbing business. In that case, the Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award 2020 will cover your plumbers, while the Clerks – Private Sector Award 2020 will cover your office staff. 

It is up to you as an employer to know which Awards apply. Furthermore, you must ensure you keep up with any changes to the relevant awards.

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What Do Modern Awards Cover?

There are several modern awards, each of which applies to different industries and refer to different employee levels. Therefore, modern awards provide for a range of minimum entitlements. For example:

  • pay rates;
  • hours of work;
  • rosters; 
  • break times;
  • penalty rates and overtime; 
  • leave, including carer’s, annual and long service leave;
  • termination notice and redundancy pay; and
  • flexible working arrangement requests.

The purpose of modern awards is to provide minimum conditions and entitlements for employees to protect their rights.

Does a Modern Award Cover Your Employees?

Many employees Australia-wide are covered by an award. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule. For example, if your employees are the following, they may not be covered by an award. For example, if your employee is a:

It is important to note that even where a modern award does not cover an employee, they will still be protected and have rights under the National Employment Standards, including the National Minimum Wage.

Most Common Awards

Some modern awards are more common than other in Australia. For example, some of the most commonly applicable modern awards in Australia include the:

  • General Retail Industry Award 2010 [MA000004];
  • Fast Food Industry Award 2010 [MA000003];
  • Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010 [MA000005];
  • Cleaning Services Award 2020 [MA000022]
  • Aged Care Award 2010 [MA000018]
  • Children’s Services Award 2020 [MA000120];
  • Nurses Award 2020 [MA000034];
  • Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2020 [MA000009]; and
  • Real Estate Industry Award 2020 [MA000106].

Despite these being the most common, there are more than 120 different awards spanning industries and occupations Australia-wide. The Australian Building and Construction Commission alone identifies three different awards in their industry. For example, these include:

  • Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010;
  • Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award 2010; and
  • Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award 2010.

To help you find the award relevant to you, you can search the Fair Work Commission’s website here.

The Fair Work Commission

The Fair Work Commission is responsible for overseeing, reviewing and maintaining all modern awards, meaning you can find all awards on their website

It is important to note that an employment contract cannot override or replace the entitlements outlined in a modern award. Instead, they can only add to them. 

Key Takeaways

A modern award is a document that outlines the minimum terms and conditions of employment for workers in particular sectors. You should note that modern awards must be in line with the National Employment Standards. Furthermore, their aim is to provide minimum conditions and entitlements for employees. Modern awards cover many occupations across a multitude of industries, with there currently being more than 120 different awards Australia-wide.

If you need help with awards, our experienced employment lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 1300 544 755 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Modern Award?

A modern award is an industrial instrument that outlines the minimum terms and conditions of employment for workers in particular industries and occupations. 

What are the most common Modern Awards?

There are more than 120 different awards spanning industries and occupations Australia-wide. Some of the most common awards in Australia include the General Retail Industry Award, Fast Food Industry Award, Aged Care Award and Nurses Award.

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