2023 Guide to the Australian Minimum Wage for Employees

Updated 9 August 2023

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As an employee, there is a minimum amount you can be paid for doing a specific job. This is known as the minimum wage and refers to the base hourly or weekly rate you are to receive. The Australian minimum wage is exclusive of any bonuses, penalties, casual loading or superannuation you may be entitled to. In this article, we explain the Australian minimum wage for employees. We'll cover what the Australian minimum wage is and how it varies for different industries and individuals.

What is the Australian minimum wage?

This article is based on information available at the time of writing, which may change at any time. Indeed does not guarantee that this information is always up-to-date. Please seek out a local resource for the latest on this topic.

The minimum wage is the lowest amount that you can legally be paid to do a job. Australian minimum wages have been determined and set by an expert panel at the Fair Work Commission since 2010. Each year, the minimum wage is reviewed by the panel. Should they decide to make any changes, these usually come into effect on the first day of the following financial year.

The purpose of the minimum wage is to protect workers against unfairly low payments. Minimum pay rates ensure employees earn a minimum living allowance. They also encourage the fair distribution of profits/revenue. Minimum wages play a part in helping to reduce poverty and increase equality by promoting the right to equal pay for work of equal value.

The minimum wage that applies to you depends on several factors. These may include what industry you work in and how old you are, among other things, which we explain in more detail below:

The national minimum wage

The national minimum wage in Australia refers to the minimum base rate you can receive for doing any job. There are only a few exceptions to this rule, which include:

  • Junior workers (under the age of 21)

  • Supported Wage System workers

  • Apprentices and trainees.

For all other employees, it is illegal for you to receive less than the national minimum wage. As of 1 July 2023, the national minimum wage in Australia is $23.23 per hour or $882.80 per week (before tax). If you're a casual employee who falls under the national minimum wage, then an extra 25% is paid on top of your base rate.

Industry award minimum wages

Unlike the national minimum wage, award wages refer to the minimum payment you can receive for doing a specific job within a specific industry. Each industry award outlines the minimum wages for different occupations within the industry, as well as conditions of employment (annual leave, penalty rates, etc.).

For example, as of 1 July 2023, a full-time, level 4 adult employee covered by the Fitness Industry Award 2020 is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of $27.26. This award also outlines all other foreseeable employer obligations to an employee in the fitness industry, for example, first aid and special clothing allowances. Employers are legally bound to their industry-specific awards.

In some instances, you may find that, as an employee, you are not covered by an award. In this case, the national minimum wage is there to safeguard you.

Related: What Is OTE? (Definition, Uses, Examples and FAQs)

Minimum wage for young workers

In Australia, any employee under the age of 21 is classified as a junior employee. If you are a junior employee, different minimum wages may apply to you. Australian minimum wages for junior employees are determined as a percentage of the national minimum wage or specific industry award.

The aim of having a different set of minimum wages for juniors is to provide opportunities for young workers to enter the job market. It gives them a competitive edge over senior employees who need to be paid more. For employers, it's a way of reducing the cost of staffing their business.

If you are not under an award as a junior employee, the percentages of the national minimum wages are as follows:

  • under 16 years of age: 36.8% of national minimum wage = lowest hourly rate of $8.55

  • 16 years of age: 47.3% of national minimum wage = minimum hourly rate of $10.99

  • 17 years of age: 57.8% of national minimum wage = minimum hourly rate of $13.43

  • 18 years of age: 68.3% of national minimum wage = minimum hourly rate of $15.87

  • 19 years of age: 82.5% of national minimum wage = minimum hourly rate of $19.16

  • 20 years of age: 97.7% of national minimum wage = minimum hourly rate of $22.70

If you are under an award, the percentage of the industry-specific minimum wage you are paid may be different. For example, as of 1 July 2023, a level 1 junior employee under the age of 16 covered by the General Retail Industry Award is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of $11.13. This rate is calculated at 45% of the national minimum wage.

Related: 15 Great Jobs for Teenagers (Including Duties and Salaries)

Minimum wage for apprentices

An apprentice is an employee who has a formal training contract with their employer through a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). If you're an apprentice, the Australian minimum wage that applies to you depends on several factors, including:

  • your age

  • the award your employment is covered by

  • how long your apprenticeship is

  • what level of apprenticeship you are on (apprenticeships are tiered).

For example, an adult first-year apprentice mechanic in stage one of their apprenticeship under the Vehicle Industry Repair Service and Retail Award is entitled to $20.95 per hour or $796 per week.

When an apprentice moves to the next level of their apprenticeship they are entitled to a higher minimum wage. Moving to the next level of an apprenticeship is done in one of two ways, depending on which award it's under:

  • After working a certain period, for example, 12 months.

  • After reaching a level of competency. For example, achieving a milestone amount of the total apprenticeship skill requirements.

Related: A Comprehensive Guide to Apprentice Wages

The Supported Wage System minimum wage

For employees who have a disability that affects their capacity to work, they may be eligible for the Supported Wage System (SWS). The Department of Social Services is responsible for assessing an employee's eligibility for an SWS rate, not the employer.

If you are on the SWS and employed under an award, you are entitled to a percentage of the Australian minimum wage for your specific occupation and industry. The percentage is calculated on assessed work capacity. For example, if an independent assessor deems you capable of carrying out 80% of the role, then you are entitled to 80% of the relevant minimum rate. If there are no provisions for the SWS in the award, then you must be paid the full rate for your classification.

If you are on the SWS and not covered by an award, you are entitled to a percentage of the national minimum wage.

Penalty rates and allowances

Penalty rates and allowances are paid on top of the minimum wage (where applicable). If you're employed under an award or another type of registered agreement, your penalty rates and allowances will be stipulated in your award or agreement.

Penalty rates are paid to employees, on top of their award or agreement base rate, if they work:

  • on weekends

  • on public holidays

  • overtime

  • shifts late in the evening

  • shifts early in the morning.

Allowances are paid to employees on top of their award or agreement base rate when:

  • they do specific tasks or possess particular skills

  • they use their own equipment on the job

  • they work in challenging or risky conditions.

Allowances commonly cover:

  • uniforms or other job-specific clothing

  • equipment and tools

  • travel expenses

  • transport and mobile phone costs

  • first aid.

Related: What is Overtime Pay? Definition, Types and How to Calculate

Minimum wage and superannuation

Superannuation is not included in the Australian minimum wage, whether under the national base rate or an industry award. Because of this, it's essential to understand your employer's obligation to you concerning minimum wages and super.

Superannuation exists to help employees save for their retirement. It involves your employer contributing to your nominated superannuation account. The contribution needs to be the equivalent of 11% of your ordinary time earnings. Superannuation is paid in addition to the minimum wage for your ordinary time earnings (OTE).

Your OTE can include:

  • commissions

  • allowances

  • shift loadings.

If you are over 18 years old, you are entitled to receive at least 11% of your OTE in superannuation. If you are under 18 or work privately or domestically, you need to work a minimum of 30 hours per week to be eligible for super contributions. If you are eligible for superannuation contributions, your employer needs to make the contributions a minimum of 4 times per year.

Minimum wage breaches

Businesses are legally required to remunerate their employees in line with the national minimum wage and modern awards. Failure to do so can result in costly penalties. Sometimes mistakes can happen. 

If you feel like there has been a mistake with your pay rate, there are a few things you can do:

  • talk to your employer about the mistake

  • seek advice from The Fair Work Ombudsman if you are unable to resolve the issue with your employer.

Frequently asked questions

What is the minimum wage in Australia?

As mentioned above, the minimum pay rate for a person working in Australia depends on several variables, for example, employment type, age or work capacity. These amounts are also revised each year. For up-to-date information tailored to your specific situation, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman’s page on minimum wages.

Can you live on the minimum wage in Australia?

The minimum wage in Australia varies by employment type, age and work capacity. Whether you can live on the minimum wage will depend on other variables, like whether you live in a place where the cost of living is high or low. In short, the minimum wage in Australia is not the same thing as a ‘living wage’: it is not determined in any fixed relationship with any measure of living standards.

What is the minimum wage in Victoria?

In Australia, the minimum wage is a national standard, meaning, it is the same in Victoria as it is in other states and territories. As of 1 July 2023, the national minimum wage in Australia for an adult employee is $23.23 per hour or $882.80 per week (before tax). The minimum pay rate can vary depending on variables such as employment type, employee age or work capacity. For more information on minimum wages, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.

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