An award is a legal document that sets out minimum conditions of employment for employees in a specific occupation or industry. For example, if you work as a hairdresser in the national system of employment laws you might be covered by the national Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010. The minimum conditions in an award apply as well as any laws and your employment contract.
Employers generally cannot choose whether or not to offer employees the minimum conditions of employment in an award. However, sometimes an employer and a group of employees register an industrial agreement with an industrial relations commission, such as the Fair Work Commission or the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission. In this situation, the industrial agreement applies instead of the award. Generally an agreement will not be registered unless it leaves the employees better off overall than they would have been under the award. Common types of agreements include enterprise agreements and enterprise bargaining agreements.
If you are unsure about whether you are covered by an award or industrial agreement, you can call Wageline on 1300 655 266 if you are in the state system of employment law, or the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 if you are in the national system. If you are unsure of which system you are in, you can call Wageline or see our fact sheet National system employee or state system employee: which one are you?.