Fair Work Modern Award Interpretation

Helping small businesses interpret their obligations under the award

Modern awards apply to all employees covered by the National Workplace Relations System

They are industry or occupation-based and apply to employers and employees who perform work covered by the award. A modern award sets out the minimum terms and conditions of employment on top of the National Employment Standards (NES) and came into effect on 1 January 2010.


Hour of Works


Penalty Rate


Over Time



When modern awards don’t apply

A modern award will outline all the terms and conditions of employment for most employers and employees. If the business is covered by a registered agreement, it is usually the case that the conditions of a modern award are no longer relevant. However, if the base rates of pay in an agreement are lower than those in the relevant modern award, the base rates of pay in the modern award will apply.

Some employers and employees will not be covered by an award or registered agreement. When an employee is not covered by an award or agreement, they are considered to be award and agreement free. In these situations, the National Minimum Wage and the NES will form the minimum terms and conditions of employment.

How our award interpretations help

We have developed a set of bi-annual award interpretations where we have detailed some of the key provisions in the Award including what sorts of businesses it covers, the different levels of employee classification under the Award, and guidance on employee entitlements.

This covers the following areas:


Classifications / minimum rates of pay

Types of employment

Casual Conversion

Time in Lieu

Annualized Salary Arrangements

When overtime applies

Overtime rates

Penalty rates

Public Holidays


Leave and leave loading

Notice periods

Deduction from wages



Levels in the award


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