Junior Pay Rates

What are junior pay rates?

Junior pay rates refer to wage or hourly rates of pay that are specifically designed for young workers, typically those who are under a certain age (under 21 years old), and who may have less work experience or training than their older counterparts.

These rates are often lower than the standard adult minimum wage and are intended to reflect the reduced skill and experience levels of junior workers.

When junior pay rates apply?

Junior pay rates typically apply to employees who fall within a specific age range, which can vary depending on the relevant industrial award, enterprise agreement, or legislation. Juniors get paid a percentage of the relevant adult pay rate unless the award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement doesn’t have junior rates.

The age at which junior rates cease to apply also varies by jurisdiction and can range from 18 to 21 years old. After reaching the designated age, employees are usually entitled to the adult minimum wage.

If a junior employee isn’t covered by an award or agreement, they get a percentage of the National Minimum Wage.

Why do we have junior rates?

The purpose of junior pay rates is to recognise that younger workers may have limited work experience and may still be in the process of acquiring skills and knowledge in the workplace. These reduced rates are intended to provide a wage floor that reflects the economic reality of junior employees while also incentivising employers to hire and train younger workers.

The rationale for a junior pay rate is to facilitate the employment of young people often entering their first or second job, recognising their competitive disadvantage in the job market relative to older Australians who generally have more work experience.

Special award rates for juniors working around alcohol

Some industries, particularly those involving the sale and service of alcohol, may have special provisions in industrial awards that outline pay rates for junior employees. There are 2 common awards that entitle juniors to be paid special rates for selling and serving alcohol – Hospitality Award & Restaurant Award.

Juniors covered by these awards who sell or serve alcohol, including as a part of their general waiting duties, have to be paid the adult rate for their classification regardless of their age.

These provisions consider the potential risks and responsibilities associated with working in environments where age restrictions on alcohol consumption apply. The rates aim to ensure that younger workers are appropriately compensated for their work in such settings while still adhering to legal requirements.

Examples of when special rates may apply include when a junior employee:

  • sells alcohol to customers in a casino
  • serves alcohol to a seated customer in a restaurant
  • pours alcoholic drinks for service
  • takes an order for alcohol from a customer
  • delivers alcohol (poured by bar staff) to a customer
  • hands an alcoholic beverage to a customer at the register.

Source: Fair Work

Read More: Comprehensive Guide | 2023 Minimum Wages Australia

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