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Legal Services Award Rates: Complete Guide 2022

3 min read ·  

Updated 1st July 2022 to reflect new Legal Services Award pay rates. These rates come into effect in the first full pay run after July 1st 2022.

In recent years some law firms have faced claims they underpaid staff. The claims mainly relate to staff covered by the Legal Services Award and highlight the confusing nature of Australia’s industrial relations system. The legal industry is big business in Australia, employing more than 100,000 people. So, what is the Legal Services Award, and how can you stay compliant?

About the Legal Services Award

The Australian Government created the Award system to decide what a fair wage is in different industries. The idea is to balance the need for businesses to make a profit and for workers to get a fair day’s pay. Different industries make different amounts of money, so it makes sense for pay rates to vary. 

The Legal Services Award is a comprehensive set of pay rules for the sector. It also includes allowances and other entitlements. However, the Award does not cover admitted lawyers. They are professionals and don’t have their pay covered by an award.

The Award covers administrative employees, law clerks, and law graduates who have not been admitted. Some law firms have simply assumed clerks and graduates are professionals with no award entitlements.  Some of these employees work long hours. This has led to them being paid an annualised salary less than the award rate. Underpayment is a serious issue and could result in massive fines from Fair Work. For a full definition of the scope of the award, look at Fair Work’s guide here.

Limitations of The Award System

We mentioned the Award system was created to balance the need for a fair go across different industries. The problem is that there are 122 Modern Awards under Australian Law. There are between 180-200 individual rules within each award, covering a range of entitlements and pay. This includes things like penalty rates, overtime, public holidays, and uniform allowances. Interpreting and correctly applying these awards is tricky.

In the past, businesses would use the Fair Work Commission’s calculator to look up and manually enter pay rates for employees. This was traditionally a very time consuming process. To make matters worse, each Award is updated once a year at different times. This often leads to businesses missing changes and paying workers the incorrect rate. In recent years, unions and Fair Work have strongly targeted businesses doing the wrong thing, leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and repayments.

General Legal Services Award pay rates

Below are the minimum general Legal Services Award pay rates for 2022 for the various levels of employment. The current rule set came into effect on the 1st of July 2022.

LevelHourly Pay
Casual 16 Years$14.84
Full-Time / Part-Time – 16 Years$11.87
Casual 17 Years$17.80
Full-Time / Part-Time – 17 Years$14.24
Casual – 18 Years$20.78
Full-Time / Part-Time – 18 Years$16.62
Casual – 19 Years$23.74
Full-Time / Part-Time – 19 Years$18.99
Casual – 20 Years$26.71
Full-Time / Part-Time – 20 Years$21.37
Casual – Adult$29.68
Full-Time / Part-Time – Adult$23.74
LevelHourly Pay
Casual 16 Years$18.94
Full-Time / Part-Time – 16 Years$15.15
Casual 17 Years$22.71
Full-Time / Part-Time – 17 Years$18.17
Casual – 18 Years$26.50
Full-Time / Part-Time – 18 Years$21.20
Casual – 19 Years$30.29
Full-Time / Part-Time – 19 Years$24.23
Casual – 20 Years$34.08
Full-Time / Part-Time – 20 Years$27.26
Casual – Adult$37.86
Full-Time / Part-Time – Adult$28.96
LevelHourly Pay
Casual 16 Years$17.86
Full-Time / Part-Time – 16 Years$14.29
Casual 17 Years$21.44
Full-Time / Part-Time – 17 Years$17.15
Casual – 18 Years$25.01
Full-Time / Part-Time – 18 Years$20.01
Casual – 19 Years$28.58
Full-Time / Part-Time – 19 Years$22.86
Casual – 20 Years$32.15
Full-Time / Part-Time – 20 Years$25.72
Casual – Adult$35.73
Full-Time / Part-Time – Adult$28.58

Keeping compliant with Fair Work legislation

To escape the mess of manually entering in pay rates, many businesses are using automatic award interpretation software. This reduces the chances of making errors from manual processes. Workforce Management Software can add the correct pay rates to rosters and timesheets, and adjust for overtime, allowances and higher duties. 

For example, Tanda has built in support for a large number of awards, including the legal services award, with built-in rates that automatically sync with payroll. The rates are updated each year, and will move employees up when its their birthday. This keeps businesses compliant without having to constantly monitor Fair Work’s changes to Award rates.

Classifying employees under the Legal Services Award

One of the biggest reasons employers underpay staff is because they have been incorrectly classified. The rates and entitlements in the legal services award vary dramatically depending on whether an employee is a clerk, a graduate, and whether they work full time, part time, or as a casual. For a complete guide on how to classify staff, Fair Work provides advice here. But, for a basic outline, see below:

FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES

  • Usually works, on average, 38 hours each week.
  • Can be a permanent employee or on a fixed-term contract.

PART-TIME EMPLOYEES

  • On average work less than 38 hours per week.
  • Commonly work regular hours each week.
  • Can be a permanent employee or on a fixed-term contract.

CASUAL EMPLOYEES

  • Are employed with the understanding that there is no firm advance commitment to ongoing work with an agreed pattern of work.

Casual conversion

In response to community concern that some casuals were being exploited, new laws have introduced that allow some casuals to become permanent. Under the laws, you must offer a casual a permanent position if they’ve been at the firm for at least a year and worked consistent hours in that time. However, there are more rules that apply. For more information on casual conversion see Tanda’s complete guide on the topic.

Casual conversion covers the Legal Services Award, and you should remember this when rostering employees. Casual conversion could change the financial structure of your wages. Full time and part time employees are entitled to annual leave and sick leave, and you should remember this when structuring your roster.

Penalties and allowances

Under the legal services award, employees are entitled to penalties and allowances under certain conditions. Typically, penalty rates offer workers higher rates for working at inconvenient times, including weekends or at night (after 6PM). Workers are also eligible for overtime pay if they work longer than their rostered hours. Typically, overtime rates increases the more overtime an employee does in a shift.

Legal Services employees are also given allowances by the award. This includes allowances for laundry, clothing and meals amongst other things. The interpretation of these allowances can be complicated and depends on the situation of your business. For a full list, click here.

Leave entitlements

Staff can expect to receive the same leave entitlements under the Legal Services Award as many other modern awards, as employees are entitled to leave as set out in the National Employment Standards (NES). Leave entitlements are commonly dictated by the classification of the employee.

Typically, this means casual workers receive an extra 25% pay loading in return for not having entitlements like annual leave, with part-time and full-time workers receiving these benefits on the Legal Services Award.. But, there are many entitlements and interpreting them isn’t always straightforward.

FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES

  • Are entitled to paid leave including annual leave and sick & carer’s leave.

PART-TIME EMPLOYEES

  • Are entitled to paid leave including annual leave and sick & carer’s leave.

CASUAL EMPLOYEES

  • Are not entitled to paid leave including annual leave and sick & carer’s leave.
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