In brief: On 1 July 2017, a range of monetary changes to workplace laws commenced that impact on all employers in Australia.

Minimum wage increases

On 6 June 2017, the Fair Work Commission Minimum Wage Panel determined that from the first full pay period after 1 July 2017:
  • Minimum rates of pay for adult full time employees covered by modern awards increased by 3%.
  • The national minimum wage for an award-free adult employee increased to $694.90 per week or $18.29 per hour.
  • The decision also impacts allowance and expense amounts referred to in modern awards.

Enterprise agreements 

Employers who have an enterprise agreement in operation (even if it has passed its nominal expiry date) must ensure that the base rate of pay in the agreement does not result in any employee being paid less than the relevant modern award pay rate or, if no award applies, the national minimum wage.

The new modern award rate increases will also be taken into account for the purposes of assessing the “better off overall” test when the Fair Work Commission approves new enterprise agreements.

Civil penalties for non-compliance with workplace laws 

The new maximum civil penalty amount (applicable to contraventions of the Fair Work Act after 1 July) increased to $63,000 for a corporate entity (up from $54,000), and $12,600 for an individual, including those in management who are held to be accessories to a contravention by a corporate entity (up from $10,800).

Increase to the high-income threshold and compensation limit

In addition to increases to minimum wages and penalty amounts, from 1 July 2017, two other important monetary figures increased:
  • The high-income threshold increased from $138,900 to $142,000. This amount affects how a modern award applies to an employee, and affects an employee’s access to the unfair dismissal jurisdiction of the Fair Work Commission.
  • The compensation limit under unfair dismissal laws also increased to $71,000. The compensation limit is the maximum compensation available to an employee successful in an unfair dismissal claim.
Employers need to be aware of these changes when determining wages, assessing unfair dismissal eligibility and workplace law compliance. Seek advice if you are unsure of your obligations. 

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2019.

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