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Employment Law Update – minimum wage increases, penalty rates, and other changes

A few important changes in employment law commenced on 1 July 2017. The changes are discussed below.

Penalty Rates

Recently, the Fair Work Commission decided to reduce penalty rates for five modern awards: Hospitality Industry (General) Award, Fast Food Industry Award 2010, General Retail Industry Award 2010, Pharmacy Industry Award 2010 and Restaurant Industry Award 2010. The changes to the awards include reductions of 25% – 50% for Sunday penalty rates, and reductions of 25% for public holiday rates. The reductions only apply to some types of employees.

The reductions to public holiday rates apply from 1 July 2017. In some awards, changes to penalty provisions for early/late night work also apply from 1 July 2017. At this stage, there is no date set for the implementation of the other award reductions.

Minimum Wage Increase

The national minimum wage for a full-time adult employee (who’s employment is not governed by an award) was increased from $672.70 to $694.90 per week from 1 July 2017. This translates to an increase from $17.70 per hour to $18.29 per hour. Modern award rates also increased by 3.3%.

The changes to modern awards will also impact on the assessment of enterprise agreements. Employers must consider the increased modern award rates, and consider the application of the ‘better off overall’ test.

Other increases

Previously, the maximum civil penalty for non-compliance with workplace laws was $54,000 (for a corporate entity) and $10,800 (for an individual). These maximum penalties have now increased to $63,000 (for a corporate entity) and $12,600 (for an individual).

The high-income threshold increased from $138,000 to $142,000. This threshold affects how Fair Work legislation applies to an employee, including access to unfair dismissal claims.

If you are unsure how the changes impact on your obligations as an employer, you should seek professional advice. Please give Jenkins Legal Services a call on 02 4929 2000 or email


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