What you need to know about Penalty Rates

Going to work this weekend, tonight, or missing the next long weekend gathering with your family and friends? Or is your job just dirty or dangerous?

If so, you are among a growing number of Australians making that extra effort to keep the nation running while others relax, have a day off, or just stay clean and safe.

It’s often not nice, but at least you should get paid a bit more for it. You deserve it, and that’s where penalty rates come in.

What are penalty rates?

Penalty rates and allowances are higher pay rates that can apply when you are asked or required to work particular hours or days, like evenings, weekends or public holidays, or in dangerous or unpleasant conditions.

They are intended to make sure you are being compensated for giving up your free time to work these inconvenient times or conditions.

What do unions have to do with penalty rates?

Penalty rates were introduced in Australia after the union movement campaigned for them back in the 1940s.

In recent years, some governments have tried to undermine them, doing everything they can to cut what employees get paid for working inconvenient times or dirty, dangerous jobs.

The AWU has and will continue to ensure you get the penalty rates you deserve.

How are penalty rates calculated?

The penalty rates you are entitled to depend on when and where you work, what you do, and they’re are based on the award or enterprise agreement you work under.

Penalty rates are usually calculated as a percentage of your regular wage.

For example, you may hear terms such as “time and a half” or “double time”. This means you should get one and half (150%) or twice (200%) the pay for the hours during which the penalties apply.

Every job and workplace is different. To find out what you are entitled to contact your AWU delegate, or join the union.

Workplace arrangements affecting penalty rates

Some special workplace arrangements can affect the payment of penalty rates.  These can include:

  • annualised salaries;
  • employment contracts;
  • individual flexibility arrangements;
  • a guarantee of annual earnings.

The overall amount an employee is paid under one of these arrangements must be at least the same as the amount they would normally be paid under their award or agreement.

This means wages paid under one of these arrangements also need to compensate you for other penalties and loadings in an applicable award or agreement.

To find out more contact your AWU delegate, or join the union.

What about allowances?

Like penalty rates, allowances are special payments you should receive on top of your regular wage.

They make sure that you are not footing the bill for the things you need to do your job, such as tools and equipment, transport, or extra training not paid for by your employer.

Allowances can also cover things like uniforms, or a phone that you use at work.

And if you need to work in dangerous or unpleasant conditions, such as at a height or in the dirt, you might also be paid an allowance.

What should I do if I am not getting paid penalty rates or allowances?

You could be missing out on a lot of money you rightfully deserve.

If  you think you could be entitled to penalty rates or a work allowance, or you think your employer is not paying you the right amount, contact your AWU delegate, or join the union.

Be a part of our community.

Join the AWU.

Stronger together.


Member Benefits