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Modern Awards

Based on the contribution of Craig Dowling and Neill Campbell for The Law Handbook 2016, published by Fitzroy Legal Service, originally amended by ClareMcKenzie for the NT Law Handbook, as amended by Bradley Allen Love Lawyers, Canberra, by Gabrielle Sullivan, May Oboodi and Robert Allen and current to March 2018.

Fair Work Act and Modern Awards

Under the Fair Work Act, modern awards provide part of the national safety net of employment terms and conditions, along with the NES (see National Employment Standards). Awards are also used as a reference instrument to decide whether a proposed enterprise agreement passes the "better off overall test".

From 1 January 2010 new modern awards and the NES largely took the place of the old awards. Modern Awards have reduced the overall number of awards by combining the coverage of a number of old awards into one industry award.

Different employees are covered by different modern awards depending on their industry and/or occupation. If no modern award covers the employee’s job, they are “award free”. Industry Awards, including their coverage provisions (clause 4 and Schedule B) can be found at

While many industries and occupations are covered by a modern award, if there is an applicable enterprise agreement in operation, the minimum terms of the enterprise agreement will displace those in the otherwise applicable modern award (discussed further at Enterprise Agreements).

Ten Minimum Standards

Modern Awards can contain 10 minimum standards in addition to the NES (see section 139 of the Fair Work Act). These minimum standards are:
  1. Minimum wages, including skill-based classification;
  2. Type of employment (full-time, part-time, or casual);
  3. Arrangement of work, including hours, rosters, consultation regarding changes to rosters and breaks;
  4. Overtime rates of pay;
  5. Penalty rates, including for shifts, weekends and public holidays;
  6. Annualised wage and salary arrangements;
  7. Allowances, including for expenses incurred, additional skills, responsibilities or disabilities;
  8. Leave, leave loading and arrangements for leave;
  9. Superannuation; and
  10. Procedures for consultation, representation and dispute settlement.

Flexibility Terms

Modern Awards also include a flexibility term. Such a term allows an employer and employee to reach an arrangement to vary the effect of an Award to meet the genuine requirements of the parties. An employee must be better off overall on the flexibility arrangement than under the terms of the relevant Award. The flexibility arrangement must be in writing and signed by each party.

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