The national minimum wage in Australia is $23.23 per hour ($882.80 per 38-hour-week) as of this writing. Australia has one of the highest minimum wages in the world. To compare, the federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 USD ($11.37 AUD)
However, minimum wages for most jobs are determined by your role, age and industry, which means you may be entitled to more or less than the national rate.
Australian minimum wage: What is it?
The minimum wage in Australia is the lowest amount you can legally be paid for doing a job. It’s your gross pay before tax, and doesn’t include additional entitlements like casual loading, bonuses, allowances and penalty rates — employers must pay these on top of your minimum wage.
How are minimum wages set in Australia?
Most minimum wages are set in a job’s award or registered agreement.
Awards outline employment conditions like meal or rest breaks and minimum wages for an industry or occupation. Award pay rates are often higher than the national minimum wage, and rates tend to vary depending on the responsibilities and skills involved. An employer can be covered by more than one award.
Awards can cover an industry or an occupation, such as the Banking, Finance and Insurance Award or the Architects Award.
Using the above two examples, we can see how the minimum wage can differ under separate awards. The minimum wage under the Architects Award starts at $30.58, while the minimum wage under the Banking, Finance and Insurance Award starts at $23.97.
Minimum wages also can be set by registered agreements, which are FWC-approved and set out employment conditions for a particular company or employer, such as the SAMCO Wind and Solar Farm Maintenance Services Agreement 2023. If an employee is covered by a registered agreement, they won’t also be covered by the award. However, the minimum wage cannot be lower than that of the appropriate award.
Employees who are not covered by an award or registered agreement and earn piece rates must be paid at least national minimum wage. Piece rates are when an employee is paid in commissions or by results, rather than an hourly or weekly wage.
Do all businesses in Australia have to pay the minimum wage?
All employees in Australia are entitled to at least the national minimum wage, even if they are not covered by an award or registered agreement.
What are the minimum wages in Australia for 2023?
The minimum wage for Australian workers depends on their type of employment, their age and whether they’re covered by an award or registered agreement.
National minimum wage for adult Australians
If you’re 21 and over, and an award or a registered agreement doesn’t cover your work, then the national minimum wage of $23.23 per hour or $882.80 per week for a 38-hour week applies.
Apprentices and trainees
Pay rates for apprentices and trainees can be less than the national or award minimum wages. For example, a hairdressing trainee, with less than 1,000 hours logged and working part-time, earns a minimum wage of $14.40.
Minimum wages for apprentices and trainees depend on a range of factors, such as:
- Age of the apprentice or trainee
- Location of work
- Stage of apprenticeship or traineeship
- Number of contracted hours
- Type of work performed.
Apprentices could potentially receive pay increases over time or as they become more skilled.
Workers under 21 typically receive a percentage of an adult’s pay rate as their minimum wage. However, if the award of registered agreement doesn’t stipulate a minimum wage percentage for juniors, they typically get paid the same as adults.
Juniors get a percentage of the national minimum wage if they are not covered by an award or registered agreement.
For example, let’s pretend you’re 17 and just started working as a cashier at a fast food outlet.
Fast food cashiers are covered by the Fast Food Industry Award, and classified as a level one employee.
As a 17-year-old, you’re entitled to 60% of the adult rate ($24.73) under the Fast Food Industry Award. Therefore, your minimum wage is $14.84.
Your entitlement increases as you age, so you get 70% when you’re 18, 80% when you’re 19 and so on, until you reach 21, when you’re entitled to 100% of the minimum wage.
Employees with a disability
Workers with a disability who have a reduced work capacity may receive the Supported Wage System rate, which is a percentage of the minimum wage for that particular role.
Casual minimum wage in Australia
Casual employees typically receive higher pay rates because they’re not entitled to benefits like paid sick leave and annual leave. Their total hourly rate is made up of a fixed hourly rate plus casual loading — typically 25%.
For example, if you’re a casual worker on the national minimum wage and your casual loading is 25%, then your total hourly wage is $23.23 + $5.81 = $29.04.
Are you being underpaid?
You can take the following steps to ensure you’re getting at least the minimum wage for your role:
- Find your minimum pay rate. Award employees can use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Pay calculator to understand base pay rates, allowances, overtime and penalty rates. If you’re covered by a registered agreement, check the agreement for minimum pay rates.
- Review your payslips. Verify the amounts you receive match (or are above) the minimum wage for your role and industry.
- Discuss with your employer. Let your employer know if you believe you’re being underpaid.
- Lodge a complaint. File a complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman and include supporting evidence like payslips and timesheets.
Frequently asked questions about the minimum wage
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Australia had one of the highest minimum wages out of the OECD countries in 2022
It depends on the applicable award or registered agreement. For example, an 18 year old working under the Fast Food Industry Award receives 70% of the role’s minimum wage, while an 18 year old working under the Fitness Industry Award receives 75% of the role’s minimum wage.