Pay issues

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How do I know if I'm being paid the right amount?

Depending on the type of work you do, you may be covered by a modern award.  Modern awards set out the minimum rates of pay for employees working in specific jobs and classifications set out in the relevant modern award.  You can find your modern award here.

Junior rates of pay (for workers under 21) are usually a percentage of an adult rate for a job. For example, a worker who is 18 might get 70 per cent of the adult rate. An employer can agree to pay you more than the minimum amount set out in a modern award that applies to your employment, but they have to pay you at least the minimum amount.

If the type of work that you do is not covered by a modern award, you will be entitled to be paid the Federal Minimum Wage.  The Federal Minimum Wage changes every year. You can check it out online here.

If your employer has an enterprise agreement in place, you are entitled to be paid the applicable minimum rate set out in the enterprise agreement. The rate of pay in the enterprise agreement must be at least as much as the applicable rate under the relevant modern award or Federal Minimum Wage (whichever would have applied to you if your employment was not covered by the enterprise agreement).

To find out how much you should be paid, you can use the Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT) on the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

How often should I be paid?

You should be paid at least once a month, but you may be paid as often as weekly or fortnightly.  How often you are paid, and the method (such as by direct deposit into your account or by cash or cheque) will usually be set out in your modern award, enterprise agreement or employment contract. Your employer will decide the exact dates when you are paid and this will usually be explained in your employment contract.   

There is no law requiring employers to pay you on any particular day.

Employees should also be provided with a pay slip each time they are paid. Information about pay slips and other entitlements can be learnt about in the FWO’s online learning course – Starting a new job.

What if I think I have been underpaid?

If you believe you’ve been underpaid, it’s a good idea to speak to your boss or HR manager about it. If they don’t do anything about it, you can talk to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).

Generally, you have 6 years to complain about underpayments at work.

You can practise having a difficult conversation in the FWO’s Difficult conversation in the workplace course here.

Do I get paid for public holidays even if I am not working?

Full time employees are paid for public holidays even if they do not work on that day.

Part time employees will only be paid if they would normally work on the day that falls on a public holiday.

Casual employees will not generally be entitled to payment for a public holiday if they do not work that day. If they do work on a public holiday, casual employees will ordinarily be entitled to receive penalty rates.

For more information about working on public holidays, check out this video.

You can read more about public holidays here.

You can find a list of the different public holidays in each state here.

Trial Work

When you are offered a job, you may be asked to work for a trial period (sometimes called a probationary period) to see if you can do the job.

Probationary periods generally range from three to six months.  However, regardless of the length of the probationary period, your employer must tell you how long the probationary period is before you start work.

Do I get paid for trial work?


You must be paid for any trial work you do. This includes the training your employer requires you to complete. Your employer must pay for the cost of any training courses that you complete while on the trial period.  

Trial work should almost always be paid (with very limited exceptions). An example of an exception is where the trial is to allow the employee to demonstrate their skills relevant to the position – and only for as long as necessary to demonstrate the skills for the job. This might range from an hour to one shift. Except in those limited circumstances, it is generally against the law for your employer to refuse to pay you, even if you only worked for a small number of hours.  

Check out this video for more information on getting paid for trial jobs.

If you don’t have anything written showing that you will be doing trial work, it is a good idea to send your employer a letter, email or text message, saying that you agree to do the trial work and setting out the details of the date, time and place of the work and how much you will be paid. This will help you if you don’t get paid for doing trial work.

School work experience

But, if you are participating in a school work experience program, vocational placement (for example being organised through your training provider for work experience) or volunteering, you do not have to be paid.

You can read more about other types of unpaid work here.

What if I am not paid for my trial?

If you are not paid for trial work, you can contact the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94 or send an online enquiry here.

It may be useful to have proof of the work you did.  For example:

  • a copy of the job advertisement;
  • any emails or letters sent by you or the employer about the trial work; and/or
  • contact details of witnesses who know that you worked on that day.
  • Employees can test their knowledge about pay in the FWO’s Workplace Basics Quiz, available here.

Where can I get further help?

  • For information and advice about the Fair Work System including your rights, entitlements and obligations, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website or call the Fair Work Info line on 13 13 94.

If you’re under 25 and have a question about pay issues that we haven’t answered here, please contact us here and we can give you free information and advice.

Youth Law Australia would like to express thanks to Hall & Wilcox and the Fair Work Ombudsman for assisting us with the preparation of this material.

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