Cost of living factored into wage rise

Regularly reviewing staff wages becomes particularly important at the start of the new financial year for award covered staff. 

The Fair Work Commission sets a minimum wage for private sector employees, which is subject to any applicable industrial award.  In the legal services industry, this is the Legal Services Award 2020. 

The Fair Work Commission minimum wage panel handed down its Annual Wage Review decision on 3 June and decided to increase:

  • all modern award rates by 3.75 per cent (the rise last year was 5.75 per cent);
  • the National Minimum Wage to $915.90 per week.

In reaching its decision, the Fair Work Commission took into account that:

  • cost-of-living pressures for modern award reliant employees remain high;
  • modern award minimum wages remain lower than five years ago in real terms, resulting in financial stress;
  • it was not appropriate to increase award wages significantly above the inflation rate, mainly because labour productivity was no higher than four years ago;
  • the labour market and business profit growth remain strong but the picture is less positive in some award reliant sectors;
  • modern award reliant employees would soon receive the benefit of the Stage 3 tax cuts; and
  • the forthcoming increase in the superannuation guarantee contribution rate.

The Fair Work Commission considered an increase of 3.75 per cent to be broadly in line with forecast wages growth across the economy.  The Fair Work Commission will also establish a program to address gender undervaluation issues in certain modern awards. 

The National Minimum Wage and award rate increases will take effect from the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2024. 


This means that the federal weekly minimum full time wage will increase from 1 July 2024 from $882.80 per week ($23.23 per hour) to $915.90 per week ($24.10 per hour). 

Increases to the minimum rates contained in the Legal Services Award 2020 will take effect from the start of the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2024.  Award allowances will also be affected.

A summary of the Fair Work Commission’s decision can be found at

Employers should check the Fair Work Commission website for pay rate revisions to the Legal Services Award 2020 at  Employers and employees can also subscribe to electronic award updates from the Fair Work Commission. The Fair Work Ombudsman also has online pay checking resources –

Remember that employees cannot be paid less than required by an applicable modern award (including overtime, penalty rates and allowances).

It is only trainees, apprentices and junior employees, employees to whom training arrangements apply and employees with a disability who may be paid less than these minimum rates and then only if specified in an applicable award or enterprise agreement.


For non-award employees, the obligation is for employers to ensure an employee is being paid more than the minimum wage rate for all their hours of work.

Care needs to be taken in relation to annualised wage and common law salary arrangements to ensure they comply with award and legal requirements. 

A failure to apply the minimum wage increase can result in a claim for back pay (covering up to the last six years) and the imposition of a penalty for breaching the industrial award (up to $18,780 for individuals, $93,900 for employers with less than 15 employees and $469,500 for larger employers per breach) and also has potential professional conduct implications.  Higher penalties (up to $187,500 for individuals, $939,000 for employers with less than 15 employees and $4,695,000 per breach for larger employers for companies) are payable for certain serious contraventions. 

Also, from 1 July 2024, the compulsory employer Superannuation Guarantee rate will increase from 11 per cent to 11.5 per cent. 

The other change that occurs each year from 1 July is an adjustment in the income level for statutory unfair dismissal claims which may be relevant when considering terminating the employment of a professional staff member. 

This year, the unfair dismissal high income threshold will increase to $175,000 (excluding superannuation and non guaranteed amounts, eg bonuses) from 1 July and the maximum compensation available for unfair dismissal increased to $87,500. 


This reinforces the importance for employers of making a decision whether to retain an employee before the deemed statutory probation period (called the “minimum employment period”) ends. 

This period is 12 months for employers with less than 15 employees and six months for those employers with 15 or more employees.  These periods cannot be extended, even by agreement. 

Rob Stevenson, a Queensland Law Society Accredited Specialist in Workplace Relations Law, is a Member of the QLS Industrial Law Committee. Rob is currently the Chair of the Society’s Specialist Accreditation Committee for Workplace Relations as well as being a QLS Senior Counsellor. 

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