Australian Pay and Classification Scales

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The Workplace Relations Amendement (Workchoices) Act 2005, commonly known as WorkChoices, significantly amended the Workplace Relations Act 1996. WorkChoices removed wage rates from Federal Awards and Notional Agreements Preserving State Awards (NAPSAs). On 27 March 2007, for employees covered by the WorkChoices system, notional Australian Pay and Classification Scales (Payscales) were established.[1]

Whilst every Federal Award and NAPSA has its own notional Payscale existing at law, actual documents encapsulating the scales were never created or published. On 18 December 2007 the AFPC announced that it will suspend the creation and publication of Payscales.[2] Instead, "Pay Scale Summaries" were eventually published by the Workplace Authority (and are now available from the Fair Work Australia website). They include a disclaimer as follows: "the Commonwealth of Australia does not give any guarantee, undertaking or warranty whatsoever in relation to the summary, including in relation to the accuracy, completeness or currency of the summary." However, they also state that satisfaction of the terms of the summaries will satisfy the Workplace Ombudsman that the employer has complied with its obligations under the Payscale.

Payscales contain coverage provisions, classifications, frequency of payment provisions, and wage rates including casual loadings, junior, trainee and apprentice rates.[3] Wage rates may be as basic periodic rates of pay (an hourly rate) or, where an Award or NAPSA contains such provisions, as basic piece rates of pay. Changes from the previous system of wages contained in Awards include that basic periodic rates are now in an hourly (rounded) form rather than weekly as was generally the case in Awards, and that wage rates are now adjusted by the Australian Fair Pay Commission rather than the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.[4]

Penalty rates, allowances and loadings other than casual loadings remain allowable award matters.[5] Therefore they continue to apply, but only to employees covered by the relevant Award. Certain employees in the WorkChoices system are 'Payscale only' employees - that is, their minimum terms and conditions at work come only from the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard (the Standard), including the relevant Payscale. These employees include those who work for businesses created on or after 27 March 2006, and employees who have previously been covered by a Collective Agreement (CA) or Australian Workplace Agreement (AWA) that has been terminated on or after 27 March 2006.

Where a CA or AWA is lodged after the 27 March 2006 (a post-reform agreement), it must not contain provisions that are less than the Standard, including the relevant Payscale. Where a post-reform agreement contains a basic periodic or piece rate of pay that is less than the relevant Payscale, the Payscale will override that agreement provision.


  1. ^ Workplace Relations Act 1996, Part 7, Division 2
  2. ^ Media release - Commission announces future wage-setting program 29 December 2007
  3. ^ Workplace Relations Act 1996 Division 2, Subdivision H
  4. ^ Workplace Relations Act 1996, Part 2, Division 2, section 20
  5. ^ Workplace Relations Act 1996, Part 10, Division 2