Please note, this information about awards and agreements is a general guide only. Psychologists should always seek to find information relevant to their specific context and seek professional advice (e.g., from an accountant, lawyer) or consult with their HR department/union where necessary.

For an introduction to Industrial Relations, awards and enterprise agreements, have a look at the Professional Practice Handbook.


Awards can be State or Federal, but since 1 January 2010, Federal modern awards cover most workplaces. Modern awards were created to establish one set of minimum conditions for employers and employees across Australia who work in the same industries or occupations. They provide a safety net of minimum pay rates and employment conditions.

Federal awards

Before approving an agreement, the award is used by Fair Work Australia (FWA) to apply the better off overall test. FWA must be satisfied that each employee would be better off overall under the agreement than if the award applied. In short, the award provides a baseline of employment conditions and pay from which agreements are compared.

A fact sheet on awards and agreement making can be found here

The award that is applicable to a psychologist is dependent on the sector and setting in which they are employed. For example, the following Federal Modern Awards apply to psychologists in the health and higher education sectors:

Other awards can also be found using the Fair Work Ombudsman Award Finder

Additionally, the Fair Work Ombudsman has an online application called PayCheck Plus which helps you to calculate pay rates under modern awards.

State awards

Since 2011, employers in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania who were covered by a Division 2B State award are now covered by modern awards which are part of the national workplace relations system.

Some State awards still exist and some psychologists may be covered by both Federal and State awards in respect to different matters. Where there is a conflict between State and Federal awards, the Federal award takes precedence, but only in respect to the points in conflict, the State award still operates in other respects. An example of a co-existing award is the NSW Health and Community Employees Psychologists (State) Award. 

Enterprise bargaining agreements

Enterprise agreements are agreements made at an enterprise level (i.e. business, organisation) 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 such as a university or a collection of state public health services.

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, agreements continue to operate after their nominal expiry date until they are replaced or terminated by application to Fair Work Australia. Thus, for some of the agreements listed below the intended length of the agreement has passed; however, it is likely they are currently under negotiation so the most recent agreement is valid until a new one has been made.

Please note: The agreements listed below are current as at September 2012. If you are concerned about the currency of an agreement contact your employer or Fair Work Australia.

Academic and research settings

Examples of agreements in the tertiary sector:

Private sector

Since 1 January 2010, all Federal and State awards are being streamlined into 122 modern awards as part of the national workplace relations system administered by the Fair Work Ombudsman. For the private sector, this means under the national workplace relations system all private sector employees (with the small exception of employment by non-constitutional corporations in WA) are covered by a new safety net for employees which includes:

  • a set of 10 minimum National Employment Standards (NES)
  • modern awards that apply nationally for specific industries and occupations
  • a national minimum wage order (where it applies)
  • enterprise bargaining, and
  • protection from unfair dismissal.

Fair Work Online provides information on the 122 modern awards which now cover all Australian workplaces. You can also call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.

You can also find further information on employee entitlements, wages and conditions on the website.