We all work. We work during standard work hours, after hours, weekends and sometimes even public holidays. We work with the understanding that we will be compensated for our efforts. But what happens when a worker does less than what was contracted for? Are they still entitled to be paid? An employee’s entitlement to wages usually arises out of the contract of employment. Thus, the first step for any employer will be to examine the contract itself. However, the entitlement to wages, as found under the employment contract, may be modified by legal principles. Accordingly, before you loosen the purse string, it may be prudent to consult with a legal professional to ascertain whether you are obliged to pay.

The employer’s right to deny payment for non-fulfilment of duties

Regardless of whether an employment contract exists, an employee does not have an entitlement to wages where they have not fulfilled their obligations. The type of services that the employee was required to render will depend entirely upon the terms of the employment contract or verbal arrangement between the parties. Nevertheless, the rule stands. No work, no pay!

Defective or partial performance of duties

More often than not, it cannot be said that an employee failed to discharge his or her work obligations in their entirety. The more likely scenario involves the employee discharging some of their responsibilities (part-performance), or all of their responsibilities in a sub-par manner. Is there an entitlement to wages in such circumstances?

The short answer is no. An employee must perform all the duties they contract for under the employment contract or otherwise agreed to. An employer can certainly refuse to accept part-performance of work, provided that, the part performance is substantial and not merely marginal. This will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis. I.E. failure to discharge safety obligations may amount to a substantial failure.

In terms of defective performance, an employer is entitled to reject the employee’s work and, in such a situation, there is no obligation to pay. Once the defective work is rejected, it is of no avail to the employee if they continue to do the work in the hopes of securing a payment.

An employer may elect to accept defective or partial performance. If they do, a duty to pay arises and the employer cannot at this point go back and claim that the work provided was not the work that was contracted for. In such circumstances, the entitlement to wages is the right to full wages, as stipulated under the contract or as per the parties agreement.


Unsure whether an entitlement to wages arises in your particular circumstances? Our LegalVision team of employment lawyers is highly experienced in employment law matters and would be happy to assist you. Contact us on 1300 544 755 to find out what your rights and obligations are.

COVID-19 Business Survey
LegalVision is conducting a survey on the impact of COVID-19 for businesses across Australia. The survey takes 2 minutes to complete and all responses are anonymous. We would appreciate your input. Take the survey now.

About LegalVision: LegalVision is a tech-driven, full-service commercial law firm that uses technology to deliver a faster, better quality and more cost-effective client experience.

The majority of our clients are LVConnect members. By becoming a member, you can stay ahead of legal issues while staying on top of costs. For just $199 per month, membership unlocks unlimited lawyer consultations, faster turnaround times, free legal templates and members-only discounts.

Learn more about LVConnect

Vanja Simic
Need Legal Help? Get a Free Fixed-Fee Quote

If you would like to receive a free fixed-fee quote or get in touch with our team, fill out the form below.

  • By submitting this form, you agree to receive emails from LegalVision and can unsubscribe at any time. See our full Privacy Policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Our Awards
  • 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn 2019 Top 25 Startups - LinkedIn
  • 2019 NewLaw Firm of the Year - Australian Law Awards 2019 NewLaw Firm of the Year - Australian Law Awards
  • 2020 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500 2020 Fastest Growing Law Firm - Financial Times APAC 500
  • 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review 2020 AFR Fast 100 List - Australian Financial Review
  • 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards 2020 Law Firm of the Year Finalist - Australasian Law Awards
  • Most Innovative Law Firm - 2019 Australasian Lawyer 2019 Most Innovative Firm - Australasian Lawyer
Privacy Policy Snapshot

We collect and store information about you. Let us explain why we do this.

What information do you collect?

We collect a range of data about you, including your contact details, legal issues and data on how you use our website.

How do you collect information?

We collect information over the phone, by email and through our website.

What do you do with this information?

We store and use your information to deliver you better legal services. This mostly involves communicating with you, marketing to you and occasionally sharing your information with our partners.

How do I contact you?

You can always see what data you’ve stored with us.

Questions, comments or complaints? Reach out on 1300 544 755 or email us at info@legalvision.com.au

View Privacy Policy