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Work Smart Jargon Busters 

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When an employee constantly or continuously fails to attend work as scheduled. In particular, when their absence forms a pattern which suggests that the employee is dissatisfied with their work or that their absence could have been avoided. Absenteeism can be considered grounds for dismissal.

Adult employees

The majority of awards and agreements stipulate an age at which all employees must be paid the full adult rate of pay. Typically, this is 21 years of age but can be 18 years of age under some awards


Additional payments made to employees for undertaking certain tasks, possessing a skill, using their own tools or performing work under adverse conditions. Types of allowances include disability allowances, height allowance, dirt or danger money, qualification and supervisory allowances.

Annual holidays

Full-time employees are entitled to four weeks of paid annual leave. Part-time employees get 4 weeks of leave paid at their part-time wage. Cetain shiftworkers are entitled to five weeks of paid annual leave.


A person (usually a young person) who works for another under an obligation to learn a trade. Some awards have provisions for adult apprentices.


A form of on-the-job training where an apprentice is under contract to an employer to learn all aspects of a trade. Apprenticeships need to be registered by the Department of Education and Training (DET).


A method of dispute settlement in which an independent third party considers the arguments of both sides and then makes a ruling which is binding on both parties in the dispute.

Australian Apprenticeship Centres

Centres which provide information, administration services and support to employers and apprentices. They assist with the signing of training contracts and also assess, approve and process the payment of Australian government employer incentives, scholarships, and income support payments to eligible Australian apprentices to assist them in the early years of their apprenticeship when their wages are generally at their lowest.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)

The peak organisation which represents unions in Australia and internationally. The ACTU was established in Melbourne in 1927 when the State Labor Councils and the then federal unions recognised the need for an organisation to represent the national interests of the unions. The state union body is called Unions NSW.

Award classifications

The groups identified in the relevant award according to the nature or complexity of tasks undertaken (eg Level 1 Customer Service Assistant and Level 3 Call Centre Prinicpal Customer Contact Specialist)

Award conditions

The minimum, legally enforceable rates of pay and conditions of employment that must be provided for employees - as specified in the appropriate modern award.

Award rate of pay

The lowest rate of pay that may legally be paid to an employee who is covered by an award. An award generally contains a number of rates that vary according to the age of the employee, their employment status (full-time, part-time or casual), and the employee's classification.


Legal documents setting out minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment which apply to employees in a particular workplace, organisation, industry or occupation. They set out hours of employment, pay rates, penalty rates, loadings, allowances, leave entitlements, employment protection or casual work.


Back pay

Money that is owed by an employer to an employee as a result of underpayment of wages.

Base rate

The regular rate of pay which does not include any extra money for such things as overtime or meal allowances.

Better off overall test (BOOT)

This is applied by Fair Work Australia and means that an enterprise agreement should offer terms and conditions of employment that are more beneficial to the employee than the appropriate modern award.


A one-off or on-going situation, in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work. This includes all forms or harassment, intimidation, physical threats or assaults and other intrusive behaviours.



An occupation selected and pursued as the chief area of employment during your working life. A career usually involves the development of skills and the aim of successive promotions.

Career Path

The way in which your career develops. The development depends on a variety of factors like your personal capabilities, skills, experience and the opportunities available for training and advancement.

Carers' leave

See:Personal/carer's leave; Family leave

Casual employees

Employees who work on an hourly or daily basis. They receive a casual loading on top of normal wages because they do not receive benefits such as paid sick leave and paid holidays. Casual loading percentages may vary from award to award.  Some modern awards limit the number of hours a casual employee may work each week.


Centrelink is a government agency delivering a range of Commonwealth services to the Australian community such as social security payments and employment assistance.

Certificate of service

A statement given to an employee at the end of a period of employment which states the commencement date, the date employment ceased and the nature of the employment.

Civil law

Legal proceedings which are not criminal in nature including areas of the law such as contracts.

Collective bargaining

A method of negotiation to settle industrial disputes between employees and employers, which is usually negotiated by a union on behalf of employees.


One of the informal processes used by Fair Work Australia to facilitate the resolution of a grievance or a dispute between parties by helping them reach an agreement. Mediation is another resolution technique that is used.

Conditions of employment

These include physical work environments, agreed job tasks, financial rewards, and rules under which employees are engaged in an enterprise. Many of these are specified in the award.

Constructive dismissal

When an employee has resigned but has done so as a result of what the employer has done, said or failed to do. The conduct of the employer has compelled or unduly influenced the employee to leave employment.

Contract of employment

An employment arrangement between an employer and employee which is enforceable by law. A contract of employment sets out the conditions and terms under which an employee accepts to work in a particular job - such as the wage or salary amount, number or spread of working hours and whether overtime is paid or allowed.



Any amounts of money deducted from an employee's pay. Except by court order or a request by Centrelink, an employer may only make a deduction from an employee's pay if authorised in writing by the employee or the deduction is principally for the benefit of the employee.

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations is a federal government department which formulates policy and provides information on employment, government assistance, jobs, careers, training, working conditions and Indigenous Employment Centres.


When someone is not treated as fairly as someone else in a similar situation, or treated differently because they are different in some way.


When a contract of employment is ended by the employer. In most cases the employee is entitled to receive notice of dismissal and be paid for the period of notice and any pay and leave that is owing. See also: Unfair dismissal.

Double time

A penalty rate of pay set at twice the standard rate. Double time is usually only paid to employees who work more than two or three hours overtime or on Sundays.


When an organisation reduces the number of its employees, usually in response to financial hardship.



The total gross pay that is paid to a person for some period of work. Earnings include award wages, award loadings and allowances, as well as over-award payments.


A person working under the control or direction of another, under a contract of employment in return for a wage or salary but does not include a person working for their parents.


A person or organisation who employs workers under a contract of employment. Employers exercise control over their workers and are responsible for the payment of wages or salaries and for providing a safe working environment.

Employer association

An organisation of employers who share similar interests or areas of trade and which aims to promote and represent their opinions and concerns.


A contract between an employer and employee in which the employee agrees to provide services under the direction and control of the employer in return for a salary or wage paid by the employer.

Employment status

The term refers to whether an employee (a person who has a contract of employment) is working on a full­time, part-time or casual basis.


The period or occasion of employment for casual employees.

Enterprise agreements

Agreements which are negotiated voluntarily between an employer and their employees or the union on behalf of those employees. They set out the minimum conditions of employment for employees engaged in particular types of work in one particular enterprise. Agreements may cover some or all of the employment conditions under the appropriate modern award. Enterprise agreements must comply with all industrial relations laws and, in general, employees should not be worse off under the agreement when compared to the modern award.

Enterprise bargaining

The process which employers and employees use to negotiate a set of rules and conditions for their workplace and which results in an enterprise agreement. Another term to describe enterprise bargaining is 'workplace bargaining'.


The rights which an employee has access to at work such as holidays, sick leave and allowances.

Entry level skill

Skills required to commence paid employment in a position/job.

Equal pay

The principle that men and women should receive the same payment when they perform the same work.


Fair Work Australia (FWA)

Fair Work Australia is the tribunal established to protect the workplace rights and interests of those workers, employers and associations who are regulated by the national workplace relations system.

Fair Work Information Statement

Employers are required to provide employees with the Fair Work Information Statement prepared by the Fair Work Ombudsman before, or as soon as possible after, the employee commences working with their business. The statement sets out the basic workplace rights and entltments of all employees and includes information such as the National Employment Standards, rights of entry and termination.

Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO)

The role of the Fair Work Ombudsman is to work with employees, employers, contractors and the community to promote harmonious, productive and cooperative workplaces. The Fair Work Ombudsman investigates workplace complaints and enforce compliance with Australia's workplace laws.

Family leave

The right of workers to take a certain amount of leave each year to meet their family responsibilities. It is known as personal/carer's leave. A family member is defined as either a member of your household or a member of your immediate family and includes same sex partners.

Fixed term contract

A contract of employment under which an employee is employed under for a specified time. These employees generally accrue entitlements such as annual and sick leave on a pro-rata basis.

Flex time

A system of work which allows employees to start and finish work between a flexible range of agreed hours. They must work a set amount of hours each day or week. For example, an employee may be required to work eight hours a day, but may start work at any time between 7am and 9am and finish work eight hours later, between 3pm and 7pm.

Full-time employees

Employees who work 38 hours per week and receive full weekly wages and conditions for working the hours identified in the award. They receive all wages and conditions under the award. Other conditions include annual leave and long service leave.



An automatic pay deduction on behalf of a third party. It usually results from a court order. Except by court order or a request by Centrelink, an employer may only make a deduction from an employee's pay if authorised in writing by the employee or the deduction is principally for the benefit of the employee.

Grievance procedure

A formal procedure developed for resolving issues or complaints, such as alleged harassment or discrimination.

Gross pay

The amount an employee has earned before their income tax and other deductions are subtracted from their pay.

Group certificate

A form which shows an employee's gross pay, net earnings, tax and other deductions which is given to employees by employers at the end of the financial year for taxation purposes.



Any unwanted or uninvited behaviour which is offensive, embarrassing, intimidating or humiliating. It is against the law for a person to be harassed because of their sex; pregnancy; race (including colour, nationality, descent, ethnic or religious background); marital status; disability; homosexuality; age; transgender status or for their relationship to or association with a person of a particular sex, race, marital status etc. Harassment is a form of discrimination.

Hourly rates of pay

These are specified in awards or agreements for each job classification as the lowest rate payable per hour. They may include allowances and loadings. Hourly rates vary for full-time and casual employees.



Money earned from work or business.

Income tax

A government tax charged on what a person earns from work each year. The amount of income tax paid is dependent on how much is earned and certain other entitlements and exemptions. See also: Tax

Industrial action

An organised disruptive act taken by a group of workers - such as a strike or stop-work meeting. 'Protected industrial action' is the term used for a legal strike in Australia. Under the law employees cannot be disadvantaged for being part of a protected action.

Industrial relations

The relationship between employers and employees.

Industry award

An award that covers all employees in a single industry.



The set of tasks that is allocated to an employee and that they are expected to carry out during their work day. The term is often extended to include the immediate physical or social work environment in which the tasks are performed.

Job classification

A system where jobs are grouped into categories which correspond with the amount of training, skill, competencies, knowledge or experience required to do them. Each job classification has a specific rate of pay related to it which is set out in awards and agreements.

Job description

A document which describes the purpose, expected activities and responsibilities of a particular job.

Job satisfaction

The extent to which employees are content with the work they do and the conditions which they work under.

Job sharing

When two people share a single job, and the wage of one person is split between them.

Junior employees

Employees under 18 or 21 years of age. Most awards specify a separate pay scale for junior employees. This may be paid at a percentage of the adult rate, or a specific rate, depending on the age of the employee.


Leave without pay

A form of leave granted when an employer permits an employee to take time off work without pay, for a specified period.

Leave loading

An additional payment when on annual leave.


Any payments made to an employee, over and above their normal award rate, to compensate them for some particular aspect of their job (eg shift loading) or for some aspect of their employment (eg remote geographic location).

Long service leave

Paid leave due to an employee after working for an unbroken period of ten years with an employer. The employee receives two months paid leave after ten years service with one employer and one month paid leave for each additional five years service with that employer.


Maternity leave

Leave taken by women employees during or after pregnancy. The period of leave available is up to 52 weeks.

Meal allowance

An allowance paid to employees who work overtime to compensate them for the cost of a meal. The allowance, and the conditions under which it must be paid, are set out in the award.


Mediation is a process in which the parties to a dispute, with the assistance of a neutral third party (the mediator), identify the disputed issues, develop options, consider alternatives and try to reach an agreement.

Minimum wage

The lowest amount which can legally be paid to an employee under a modern award or agreement or as set out under the national wage order.

Modern award

See Award 


National employment standards (NES)

A set of 10 minimum employment standards that apply to all employees within the national industrial relations system. The Standards include maximum weekly hours, requests for flexible working arrangements, parental leave and related entitlements, annual leave, personal/carer's leave and compassionate leave, community service leave, long service leave, public holidays, notice of termination and redundancy pay.


When two parties discuss what they want in order to reach an agreement.

Net pay

The amount of money an employee receives after income tax and other deductions have been taken out from weekly earnings. Also called 'take home pay'.

NSW Industrial Relations (NSW IR)

This NSW government agency works in partnership with the Commonwealth’s Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure NSW private sector businesses comply with their responsibilities under the national workplace relations system, as well as under NSW laws regulating shop trading, public holidays and long service leave.  In addition, NSW IR delivers a comprehensive employment education program for both employers and employees to assist in a better understanding of workplace rights and entitlements.


A notification of the end of employment which comes from either an employer or employee.



The trade, skill, or job performed by an individual or group.

Occupational health and safety (OH&S)

The general area of concern in employment which covers the physiological and psychological well-being of persons engaged in work. Employers have a common law duty to take reasonable care to guard their employees' health and safety at work.

Ordinary hours

The hours set out in an award that an employee works each day or week that are paid at normal hourly rates. Most awards provide that full-time or weekly employees work 38 ordinary hours a week.


An employee who carries out work for a company or organisation away from its premises. An outworker has the general rights and entitlements of an employee under industrial laws.

Over-award payments

Payments made in excess of the minimum rate set out by the award.


Work performed in addition to ordinary hours. Overtime work must be paid at the overtime rates of pay specified in awards.


Paid rate

The actual rate of pay received by employees.

Parental leave

The entitlement of both male and female employees to take leave when their baby is born or adopted. See also Maternity Leave.

Part-time employees

Employees who are engaged for a number of hours that are less than those for full-time employees in an award. Part-time workers generally receive the same entitlements and benefits of a full-time worker on a proportional basis.


Payment for work. The total amount earned is called gross pay and the total amount earnt minus deductions (eg tax) is called net pay. See also: Salary; Wage

Pay slip

A record of pay which an employer must provide to employees each time they are paid. The pay slip must contain details such as the name of the employer, the name of the employee, date when the payment was made, the amount of money paid before tax, any allowances, bonuses etc, the amount deducted for tax, the amount paid after tax and superannuation contributions.

Penalty rate

A higher rate of pay which compensates for work done outside usual hours such as late at night or on public holidays.

Personal/carer's leave

Personal carer's leave is leave an employee can take to care for a family member who is sick. If an employee takes personal/carer's leave she/he must be responsible for the care of the person who is sick.


The calculation of entitlement for part-time employees on a proportional basis when compared to a full-time employee. It may also be used when a yearly entitlement is calculated for a period of employment less than a whole year.


Productivity is a ratio of the value of an enterprise's output of goods and services to the cost of the various resources used to achieve that output.


An occupation which requires knowledge gained through academic study, such as law, medicine or teaching.



Often used by employers to describe a training or education achievement, such as a degree, diploma or certificate. It also includes qualities or accomplishments which make a person suitable for a position.



This occurs when the work performed by an employee is no longer necessary because their job is replaced by technology or the work is restructured making the position redundant. For a redundancy payment to apply the employer must have 15 or more employees.


A person who can provide details of your character, education, employment history and suitability for the job to a prospective employer. This person is usually required to be nominated as part of an application for a job.

Registered Training Organisation (RTO)

Organisations which provide training and have satisfied the national criteria for provision of services, and are registered by a state/territory training authority. For example, TAFE NSW is a registered training organisation.


Money paid or a benefit given to a person in return for their services. Usually means a wage or salary but can also take the form of a special payment such as a bonus or a benefit.


When an employee tells their employer of their intention to leave their job and therefore terminate their contract of employment.  An employee is required to provide notice to their employer.

Restraint of trade

Any action which damages or hinders in some way a person's opportunity to carry on a business, or a provision in a contract which restrains a former employee for working for a competing business. Restraints of trade are illegal unless the restraint is in writing and is reasonable.


A document which lists and summarises your career achievements and experiences. Also known as a 'curriculum vitae' or 'CV'.


When a person stops working permanently or withdraws from their position, usually because of their age.


See: Redundancy

Right of entry

The legal right of union officials to enter business premises under certain conditions for purposes described in the Fair Work Act 2009.



A fixed regular payment for work or services, by the week, day, fortnight or month or individual job performed. See also: Pay; Wage

School-based apprenticeship

School-based apprenticeships allow senior high school students to commence an apprenticeship while they are still at school. NSW school students can start a part-time apprenticeship while enrolled in the Higher School Certificate (HSC) from the end of Year 10.


Any person who operates their own business or professional practice, who does not employ labour, and who operates independently of other organisations.

Service increment

A wage adjustment given to employees based on their length of service in the business. This form of wage increase is increasingly being linked to skills and competencies rather than being automatically passed on to employees.

Severance pay

The final payment made to an employee when their employment is terminated. It includes amounts for accrued leave, leave loadings, and accrued pay for time already worked. In instances of redundancy, severance pay can also include redundancy pay.

Shift allowance

An allowance paid for working a shift that is compensation for working during non-standard (day time) hours (eg afternoon shift, night shift or early morning shift).

Sick leave

Paid leave provision in awards for employees who are unable to attend work because of illness or injury - now called personal/carer's Leave.

Small business employer

An employer who employs less than 15 employees, including full-time, part-time and casual employees.

Spread of ordinary hours

The 'spread of ordinary hours' in an award defines when ordinary hours apply. For example, where a spread of ordinary hours is between 6.00am and 6.00pm Monday to Friday it means that an employee working within that timeframe is paid at the ordinary hourly rate of pay. Overtime or penalty payments apply for work undertaken outside that timeframe.

State Training Services

Part of the NSW Department of Education and Training and is the registrering authority in New South Wales for all apprentices and trainees.  Manages the training contracts of apprentices and trainees in training around the state.


See: Industrial action


The money put aside during your working life for use when you retire. An employer must contribute 9% of their employee's wages into a superannuation fund. Superannuation is an additional benefit on top of a wage or salary.

Superannuation guarantee

Superannuation contributions that most Australian workers receive from their employers. The employer should contribute to a complying superannuation fund or a retirement savings account (RSA) for all their employees.


Take home pay

See: Net pay


A compulsory financial charge imposed by governments on such things as income, goods and property for use in public spending and administration. Also known as taxation. See also: Income tax

Tax evasion

The illegal understatement of income to avoid paying tax. Also, the failure to pay taxes which are legally due to the government.

Tax return

A statement of an employee's income which is submitted to the Australian Taxation Office at the end of the financial year.


The act of ending an employee's employment for any reason.


One and a half times the ordinary hourly rate of pay.

Trade union

An organisation of employees, which acts collectively for mutual protection and assistance and is often concerned with wages and conditions of employment. Unions represent workers in dealings with employers and government. Many unions also offer extra services to their members such as advice about finances, access to health services, such as dental care, scholarships to help pay for school books or discount movie tickets. See also: Australian Council of Trade Unions.


A type of job that combines training and work. Trainees undertake on-the-job work (usually four days per week) as well as training provided by a college or other training provider (usually a day each week). See also: Apprenticeship, Australian Apprenticeships Centres, School-based apprenticeship.

Trial work

When offered a job an employee may be asked to work for a trial or probation period. The employer must tell the employee how long the probation or trial period will be (eg for three months) and the employee must be paid for any work they do.

Employers must pay for the cost of any necessary training and employees must be paid for any training they are required to do.
See also: Unpaid trial work



Involuntarily and temporarily without a job, although able and willing to work.


The portion of the workforce who are able and willing to work but unable to find jobs.

Unemployment benefits

A regular social security payment for people who are registered with the Government as unemployed. The unemployment benefit helps with living and job seeking costs. Also known as the 'dole'.

Unfair dismissal

When an employee is dismissed in violation of their contract, award or the law. An unfairly dismissed employee has the right to seek compensation for lost earnings, and can take their claim to an industrial tribunal. Also known as 'wrongful dismissal'.


See: Trade Union

Unpaid trial work

A common – and illegal - way of exploiting young people who are trying to gain work experience. Unpaid trial work should not be confused with school work experience programs or part of a tertiary course. With formal work experience, clear boundaries are set as to when the work will start and finish and a nominal fee is usually paid.


Vocational education and training

Training or education which focuses on preparing students for a trade or commercial career.

Voluntary redundancy

When an organisation intends to lay off workers it can ask whether any employees are interested in resigning voluntarily and taking a lump-sum redundancy payment.



Payment for work or services, by the week, day or by the individual job performed.

See also: Salary

Wage rate

The rate of pay applicable to a particular job. The rate may vary according to the employee's age, level of skills, seniority or duties.

Work contract

See: Contract of employment

Work diary

An employee's own record of work-related events which may include details of starting and finishing times, any leave taken, pay received, conversations with supervisors and other colleagues, critical or unwanted incidents, work-related expenses and other significant workplace events.

WorkCover NSW

A NSW state government body responsible for workplace safety, injury management and workers' compensation program. Its primary objective is to work in partnership with the NSW community to achieve safe workplaces and effective return to work and security for injured workers.


A broad term describing an individual who works for wages or a salary and performs services or work for an employer.

Workers compensation

A payment from an employer to an employee for injuries or illness caused at work.


The entire population available for work, either employed or unemployed.

Working conditions

The physical environment in which a person works, including the actual space, the quality of ventilation, heat, light and degree of safety.

Working from home

A flexible work arrangement in which an employee works at home or another remote location rather than travelling to a central office, and uses technology to communicate with other colleagues and supervisors. It may also be called telecommuting or e-commuting.

Working hours

The time an employee spends at paid work. Working hours can be regulated by awards and agreements which may outline the maximum number of hours to be worked each week, ordinary working hours, annual leave provisions, flexitime and rest breaks while at work.


Any place where people are employed or working.

Workplace bargaining

See: Enterprise bargaining

Wrongful dismissal

See: Unfair dismissal


Youth wage (also known as junior wage)

Most awards make provision for adult and junior wages. Minimum rates for the latter tend to be lower than those for adults. They are often differentiated for various age groups. See also: Junior employees