Awards set out the minimum wages and conditions to which employees are entitled. Awards do not apply when an employer has made an enterprise agreement with its employees.
Most Commonwealth agencies have agreements in place meaning that awards do not often set terms and conditions in the Commonwealth public sector. Therefore an award's primary function is as a reference point for the Fair Work Commission's assessment of draft enterprise agreements.
Agency employees should consult their agency enterprise agreement to ascertain the terms and conditions relevant to their employment.
Award modernisation is the process of reviewing and rationalising awards in the national workplace relations system to create a system of 'modern awards'. Since November 2013, the Fair Work Commission has been considering modernisation of awards applicable to Commonwealth employees for both APS and non-APS employees.
The recently-made modern awards, as summarised below, cover the majority of Commonwealth employees. Award modernisation across the Commonwealth public sector has now concluded.
Australian Public Service Employees
The Australian Public Service Enterprise Award 2015 was made by the Fair Work Commission on 14 May 2015, and is now in effect. The new APS Award replaces the Australian Public Service Award 1998.
This award covers all employees engaged under the Public Service Act 1999 excluding employees in the Senior Executive Service.
Non-APS Commonwealth employees
The Australian Government Industry Award 2016 was made by the Fair Work Commission on 15 August 2016. The industry award replaces several awards previously applicable to non-APS, Commonwealth employees.
A small number of non-APS agencies are not covered by this award. This includes those with employees who have historically been award-free e.g. agencies involved in intelligence gathering. Further, there are a small number of agencies who have retained their own enterprise specific award.
A list of agencies specifically excluded from coverage is contained in Schedule A of the Australian Government Industry Award 2016.