Nurses Award Rates: Complete Guide 2022 – Tanda

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Nursing is one of Australia’s biggest sectors, employing around 450,000 people. Covid-19 showed just how crucial health workers are to all Australians, with so many relying on nurses throughout the pandemic. It’s just as crucial for businesses to know and understand how to pay nurses correctly. The Nurses Award sets the pay, conditions, and other entitlements for most nurses in Australia.

About the Nurses Award

Award rates were designed as the pay rules for major Australian industries. They were created to give a fair day’s pay for different types of work. Every year, the Fair Work Commission sets the pay rates for these occupations, including the Nurses Award. The Commission takes submissions from businesses, unions, and economists before making a decision.

While the Nurses Award is the basic standard of pay for every nurse, other pay instruments sometimes apply over the top of the Award. For example, public sector nurses have a union negotiate their pay and don’t follow the Award. If an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement applies, the pay will be based on that instrument, not the award.

Likewise, some major private hospitals also negotiate with unions to set their pay. There are also some exceptions to covererage altogether. Businesses which employ nurses in primary or secondary schools are not covered by the Nurses Award. For a full list of coverage, you should look at the Fair Work Commission’s coverage.

If you are covered by the Award, it is a guiding tool that dictates the pay, conditions and entitlements for nurses. It’s crucial to follow these to the absolute letter of the law. Failing to follow the Award could result in large-scale underpayment, exposing your business to massive fines and brand damage.

Limitations of The Award System

Staying compliant with the Modern Award System is complicated. There are 122 Modern Awards with hundreds of different rules in each Award. It’s often unclear who is covered by what Award, what entitlements they have, and when they apply. The short answer is that the entire system is a mess.

There have been attempts to make the Award system easier to navigate, but most of them have failed. Awards are designed to give a fair go for workers, so changing them could leave some people worse off. Everytime the Government tries to make things a little simpler, there is a major pushback, and the plan is usually dropped.

General Nurses Award Pay Rates

Below are the minimum Nurses Award pay rates for 2021 for the various levels of employment. The current rule set came into effect on the 1st of September 2021.

Level Hourly Pay Saturday Sunday Public Holiday
Level 1 $20.66 $30.99 $36.16 $41.32
Level Hourly Pay Saturday Sunday Public Holiday
Level 1 $25.83 $36.16 $41.32 $46.49
Level Hourly Pay Saturday Sunday Public Holiday
Level 1 $21.00 $30.99 $36.16 $42
Level Hourly Pay Saturday Sunday Public Holiday
Level 1 $26.25 $36.75 $42 $47.25
Level Hourly Pay Saturday Sunday Public Holiday
Level 1 $22.44 $33.66 $39.27 $44.88
Level Hourly Pay Saturday Sunday Public Holiday
Level 1 $28.05 $39.27 $44.88 $50.49
Level Hourly Pay Saturday Sunday Public Holiday
Level 1 $24.01 $36.02 $42.02 $48.02
Level Hourly Pay Saturday Sunday Public Holiday
Level 1 $30.01 $42.02 $48.02 $54.02
Level Hourly Pay Saturday Sunday Public Holiday
Level 1 $29.62 $44.43 $51.84 $59.24
Level Hourly Pay Saturday Sunday Public Holiday
Level 1 $37.03 $51.84 $59.24 $66.65

Keeping compliant with Fair Work legislation

The complexity of Award rates makes complying with the law very difficult. Pay rates and entitlements also change regularly, often with obscure court rulings. Fair Work’s website is a good resource to use to make sure your rates and entitlements are accurate, but entering them in manually is an extremely time consuming process.

The problem is that not being compliant is extremely costly. Fair Work is massively ramping up audits of businesses it suspects aren’t doing the right thing. These “surprise audits” have seen businesses fined hundreds of millions of dollars. For a full explanation of how Fair Work targets businesses, look at Tanda’s guide.

One of the best ways to simplify compliance with Australia’s industrial relations framework is to use a modern Workforce Management System. Tanda has built in Award interpretation, automatically updating and adding entitlements throughout the year. This saves days of scanning Fair Work’s website for obscure updates to Award rates. Employees can clock in and clock-out of work using digital time clocks, allowing their exact hours to be recorded.

Running a system like Tanda will remove complicated calculations, and allow you to get on with managing your business, staying compliant with the Nurses Award. All documents are kept in the cloud for the required seven years, making it easy to show evidence to Fair Work that you’re doing the right thing.

Classifying employees under the Clerks Award

For a complete guide on classifying staff, you should look at Fair Work’s advice. But, for a basic run down of the different positions employees can have, 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

For a full explanation of what casual conversion is, you should look at Tanda’s guide on managing the issue. But, as a basic outline, new laws allow some casuals to become full-time or part-time. These were put in place to give casuals consistent hours the opportunity to have entitlements like annual leave. If a casual has been employed for at least a year, and had consistent hours for at least six months, they could be eligible to convert. However, there are many complicated rules in this area.

The Nurses Award includes casual conversion and you should take this into account. Permanent employees are entitled to sick leave and annual leave. Casual conversion has the potential to change how your roster works, and you should be aware of the issue.

Penalties and allowances

All Awards include penalty rates and allowances for workers in some circumstances. Penalty rates are when an employee has to work at unsociable times, like late at night or on weekends. They will receive a higher rate of pay per hour as compensation for the inconvenient time. Overtime is slightly different. If an employee works longer than their allotted shift, they earn overtime. Overtime increases the base rate of pay they receive per hour. It only applies during the “extra time” the employee works.

The Nurses Award also has other entitlements – like a uniform allowance, higher duties, meals, and other typical benefits. For a full list of allowances, click here.

Leave entitlements

The Nurses Award has the same leave arrangements as the vast majority of Australian Awards. These are dictated by the National Employment Standards. Typically, it means that part-time and full-time employees receive annual leave. Casual workers are not entitled to leave, but receive an extra 25% pay per hour in return.

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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