The national minimum wage will increase by 1.75% or $13 a week for 2.2 million award-reliant workers, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled on Friday.
But in an unprecedented step taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FWC moved to stagger the increase across different industries, with some firms set to pay the increase from July 1 and others granted a reprieve until next February.
The increase will see wages for Australia’s lowest-paid workers increase to $753.80 per week, or $19.84 per hour, following last year’s 3% increase to $740.80 a week, or $19.49 an hour.
Workers under awards deemed less affected by the pandemic — so called “Group 1 Awards” — will have their pay increased from July 1, while workers in “Group 2 Awards” will fall under the wage increase from November 1.
Workers under retail, fast food, restaurant and hospitality awards will fall under “Group 3”, and will receive their wage increase from February 1 next year, just four months before the FWC is due to make its 2021-22 minimum wage decision.
See below for a full list of which awards fall under what category and when the increase will apply by.
Ross: FWC made decision “with caution”
Business lobbyists had argued for a freeze in the minimum wage this year as firms deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, which is likely to throw Australia into its first recession in almost 30 years.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) had called for a $30 a week bump, arguing low-paid workers continue to struggle to make ends meet amid the coronavirus crisis.
In a surprising turn, the FWC’s decision was split, with panel member professor Mark Wooden recommending a wage freeze.
Commission president Iain Ross said the majority of the panel accepted that economic considerations weighed in favour of greater moderation in wage increases, with more weight being given to the impact on hiring and reemployment.
However, he said the FWC was also required to take into account the relative living standards and needs of the low paid.
“An increase in minimum wages would assist these [minimum wage] employees to better meet their needs, if we were to award no increase it would amount to a real wage cut,” Ross said.
“For some households, it would lead to further disadvantage and may place them at a greater risk of moving into poverty.”
Ross said the FWC nevertheless approached their decision this year with caution, and the tranched nature of the wage increase would help moderate the impact on employers suffering the most as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
This year’s minimum wage decision was particularly contentious due to the pandemic, but also because the federal government is currently undertaking wide-ranging industrial relations consultations with unions and employer groups.
No surprises: Neither employers or unions happy
Reactions to the decision followed the usual lines, with both employer groups and unions expressing disappointment at the level of the increase (either too high or too low) while also outlining their relief the bump was not more or less.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the increase was “very modest” but nevertheless outlined the importance of wage growth to Australia’s economic recovery.
“This is a very modest increase and it is disappointing that several awards will not see any increase until November or February,” McManus said in a statement.
“However it is clear in the decision that this panel of experts recognise that cutting wages in the middle of this crisis would be a disaster for working people and the economy and they have rejected the arguments put by some employers to effectively cut wages by freezing the minimum wage.”
Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson, who had called for a wage freeze alongside other employer groups, said the FWC’s decision “defies common sense”.
“When it’s time for businesses to move off JobKeeper, we risk there being less jobs because of this decision,” he said in a statement.
“It equates to an increase of $13 per minimum wage worker per week, but compound that by the number of employees and weeks per year and the cost is a staggering $1.4 billion to Australian businesses. That money could have been spent on saving jobs or hiring new people.”
How the staggered increase will work
Use control-F (search) to locate the awards relevant to your workers and cross-reference them against the dates listed below.
Employees on Group 1 Awards will be entitled to the new minimum wage from July 1, 2020.
These awards include:
- Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Award 2020;
- Aged Care Award 2010;
- Ambulance and Patient Transport Industry Award 2020;
- Banking, Finance and Insurance Award 2020;
- Cemetery Industry Award 2020;
- Children’s Services Award 2010;
- Cleaning Services Award 2020;
- Corrections and Detention (Private Sector) Award 2020;
- Educational Services (Schools) General Staff Award 2020;
- Educational Services (Teachers) Award 2010;
- Electrical Power Industry Award 2020;
- Fire Fighting Industry Award 2020;
- Funeral Industry Award 201;
- Gas Industry Award 2020;
- Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2020;
- Medical Practitioners Award 2020;
- Nurses Award 2010;
- Pharmacy Industry Award 2020;
- Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010;
- State Government Agencies Award 2020; and
- Water Industry Award 2020.
Employees on Group 2 Awards will be entitled to the new minimum wage from November 1, 2020.
These awards (deep breath) include:
- Aluminium Industry Award 2020;
- Animal Care and Veterinary Services Award 2020;
- Aquaculture Industry Award 2020;
- Architects Award 2020;
- Asphalt Industry Award 2020;
- Australian Government Industry Award 2016;
- Black Coal Mining Industry Award 2010;
- Book Industry Award 2020;
- Broadcasting, Recorded Entertainment and Cinemas Award 2010;
- Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010;
- Business Equipment Award 2020;
- Car Parking Award 2020;
- Cement, Lime and Quarrying Award 2020;
- Clerks—Private Sector Award 2020;
- Coal Export Terminals Award 2020;
- Concrete Products Award 2020;
- Contract Call Centres Award 2020;
- Cotton Ginning Award 2020;
- Dredging Industry Award 2020;
- Educational Services (Post-Secondary Education) Award 2020;
- Electrical, Electronic and Communications Contracting Award 2010;
- Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award 2010;
- Gardening and Landscaping Services Award 2020;
- Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award 2010;
- Higher Education Industry-Academic Staff-Award 2020;
- Higher Education Industry-General Staff-Award 2020;
- Horticulture Award 2010;
- Hydrocarbons Field Geologists Award 2020;
- Hydrocarbons Industry (Upstream) Award 2020;
- Joinery and Building Trades Award 2010;
- Journalists Published Media Award 2020;
- Labour Market Assistance Industry Award 2020;
- Legal Services Award 2020;
- Local Government Industry Award 2020;
- Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2020;
- Marine Towage Award 2020;
- Maritime Offshore Oil and Gas Award 2020;
- Market and Social Research Award 2020;
- Meat Industry Award 2020;
- Mining Industry Award 2020;
- Miscellaneous Award 2020;
- Mobile Crane Hiring Award 2010;
- Oil Refining and Manufacturing Award 2020;
- Passenger Vehicle Transportation Award 2020;
- Pastoral Award 2010;
- Pest Control Industry Award 2020;
- Pharmaceutical Industry Award 2010;
- Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award 2010;
- Port Authorities Award 2020;
- Ports, Harbours and Enclosed Water Vessels Award 2020;
- Poultry Processing Award 2020;
- Premixed Concrete Award 2020;
- Professional Diving Industry (Industrial) Award 2020;
- Professional Employees Award 2020;
- Rail Industry Award 2020;
- Real Estate Industry Award 2020;
- Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award 2020;
- Road Transport and Distribution Award 2020;
- Salt Industry Award 2010;
- Seafood Processing Award 2020;
- Seagoing Industry Award 2020;
- Security Services Industry Award 2020;
- Silviculture Award 2020;
- Stevedoring Industry Award 2020;
- Storage Services and Wholesale Award 2020;
- Sugar Industry Award 2020;•Supported Employment Services Award 2020;
- Surveying Award 2020;
- Telecommunications Services Award 2010;
- Textile, Clothing, Footwear and Associated Industries Award 2010;
- Timber Industry Award 2010;
- Transport (Cash in Transit) Award 2020;
- Waste Management Award 2020; and
- Wool Storage, Sampling and Testing Award 2010.
Employees on Group 3 Awards will be entitled to the new minimum wage from February 1, 2021.
These awards include:
- Air Pilots Award 2020;
- Aircraft Cabin Crew Award 2020;
- Airline Operations-Ground Staff award 2020;
- Airport Employees Award 2020;
- Alpine Resorts Award 2020;
- Amusement, Events and Recreation Award 2020;
- Commercial Sales Award 2020;
- Dry Cleaning and Laundry Industry Award 2020;
- Fast Food Industry Award 2010;
- Fitness Industry Award 2010;
- General Retail Industry Award 2010;
- Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010;
- Horse and Greyhound Training Award 2020;
- Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2020;
- Live Performance Award 2010;
- Mannequins and Models Award 2020;
- Marine Tourism and Charter Vessels Award 2020;
- Nursery Award 2020;
- Professional Diving Industry (Recreational) Award 2020;
- Racing Clubs Events Award 2010;
- Racing Industry Ground Maintenance Award 2020;
- Registered and Licensed Clubs Award 2010;
- Restaurant Industry Award 2020;
- Sporting Organisations Award 2020;
- Travelling Shows Award 2020; and
- Vehicle Repair, Services and Retail Award 2020.