The minimum wage has increased – Make sure you’re paying your workers the right amount

From the 1st July 2014, the Fair Work Commission increased the minimum wage by 3% to $16.87 per hour. The increase is consistent across Australia and has affected of the Horticulture Award. Casual loading was also increased from 23% to 25%.

LevelWeeklyHourlyCasual (Including 25% loading)Casual (if on Workplace agreement containing a 23% casual loading)
1$640.90$16.87$21.09$20.75
2$659.40$17.35$21.69$21.34
3$678.30$17.85$22.31$21.96
4$704.00$18.53$23.16$22.79
5$746.20$19.64$24.55$24.16

AMIA CEO Robert Gray said businesses need to take it upon themselves to ensure they are in compliance of the law.

“The law is there to protect workers and businesses. Employers can be fined if they are found to be paying their workers incorrectly, whether intentionally or not. They can also be liable if they hire staff through a recruitment company who do not pay their staff in accordance with the award,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there have been a number of cases over the last few years of farms underpaying their workers. Thankfully, this issue has not affected the mango industry and we are determined to make sure all workers on mango farms across the country are not exploited,” Mr Gray said.

Employers who operate under a certified workplace agreement can continue with the agreement as long as entitlements for a provision in the agreement, such as sick leave, is not less than the rate contained in the Horticulture Award. The only exception for this is for workplace agreements that provide a 23% causal loading.

AMIA is currently involved in a committee that is reviewing the Horticulture Award, along with a number of other awards for various industries. The review started in early 2014 and may extend through early 2015. The results will be communicated when they become available.

“By being involved in the process, we have more say in the outcome. We are part of this committee to be the voice of the growers and to ensure they get the best deal. This may be a long and complex process as there are a lot of people involved,” Mr Gray said.

Superannuation News

The Superannuation Guarantee has increased to 9.5% from 1st July 2014. The Superannuation Guarantee Act requires employers to contribute to a superannuation fund for full time, part time and casual employees if they are aged between aged 16 and 69 (inclusive) and you pay them $450.00 or more (before tax) in a calendar month. If an employee is under age 18, they also have to work at least 30 hours per week to qualify for super.

Superannuation must also be paid to contractors, if the contract is wholly or principally for their labour, and for employees who are temporary residents of Australia.

The Federal Government’s initiative “Super Stream” will soon require all employers to pay their employees’ superannuation contributions through an electronic clearing house. From 1st July 2015, all employers with 20 or more employees must pay their superannuation contributions through these means, and employers with less than 20 employees have until 1st July 2016 to comply.

If you have less than 20 employees, you can use a clearing house administered by the Department of Human Services, or you can contact your default superannuation fund to gain access to their clearing house facility.

“Although these requirements will not come into place until July 2015 at the earliest, we recommend employers start to move towards using an electronic system to lodge superannuation contributions for their employees. This system is much simpler, accurate and reliable. You can pay all of your staff’s superannuation in one transaction, even if you need to lodge contributions with multiple super funds,” Mr Gray said.

There is a lot of services available to help employers understand what is required of them.

The Fair Work office has information available for businesses and workers in a range of languages. Employers and employees seeking information can contact the Fair Work ombudsman on 13 13 94 or, if a translator is required, on 13 14 50. For more information, please visit the Fair Work website: www.fairwork.gov.au .

Growcom has extensive information available on the Horticulture Award and the review on their workplace relations pages, please visit: www.growcom.com.au/industry-services-2/workplace-relations/awards-and-wages .

AustSafe Super is an industry super fund for rural and regional Australia and supports the horticulture industry. They will be happy to answer any questions you have about superannuation. Please contact AustSafe Super, 1300 131 293 between 7am – 7pm EST Monday to Friday or visit their website www.austsafe.com.au .

Businesses who would like advice on whether they are compliant with workplace health and safety laws can contact AgInduct, a workplace health and safety consultancy that provides induction and training for workers in rural agriculture and harvest industries. For more information, please call 07 4068 2208, email admin@aginduct.com.au , or visit the website: www.aginduct.com.au .