What is an award?

An award is a legally binding document made and varied by the Fair Work Commission (FWC). An award contains the minimum terms and conditions of employment which apply across an industry.

In general, an award applies to employees in a particular industry or occupation. There are also some enterprise awards still in place which only cover employees of one employer. 

If you have an enterprise agreement at your workplace, the award will not apply. The award still remains relevant because your enterprise agreement must make you "better off overall" compared to the award. Some agreements also "incorporate" the terms of the award.

Types of awards

Awards in the national workplace relations system include two main types:

  • modern awards, and
  • enterprise awards.

Modern awards

From 1 January 2010 most of the previous awards were replaced by modern industry-wide awards. A major review of some 6,000 state, regional and national awards was undertaken over four years and about 122 new modern industry awards were introduced on 1 January 2010. These modern awards now cover employees across the national workplace relations system and relate to specific industries or occupations.

Together with the National Employment Standards (NES), they provide a fair and relevant minimum safety net of terms and conditions.

Enterprise awards under review

Some workplaces were covered by an enterprise specific award prior to 1 January 2010. These enterprise awards continue until December 2013 after which time they will terminate or be converted to a modern enterprise award. The Fair Work Commession will review each of these enterprise awards to determine whether they will continue to operate. If they are terminated, the modern industry award will apply.

Which award applies to me?

To find out which award you are covered by, contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Many employees are covered by an enterprise agreement, not an award. Enterprise agreements are agreements made at an enterprise level between employers and employees about terms and conditions of employment.

Awards cover a whole industry or occupation and only provide a safety net of minimum pay rates and employment conditions. Enterprise agreements can be tailored to meet the needs of particular enterprises.

Where can I get a copy of my award?

Awards can be accessed through the Fair Work Commission Award Finder.