Understanding the building and construction industry

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Learn more about what type of work is covered by the building and construction industry. This includes what awards apply.

Building and construction industry

The building and construction industry means construction work done on-site in a commercial capacity. It can be broken down into the following sectors:

Employers in these industries are covered by the Building and Construction Award. To find out more about who this award applies to, see the Building and Construction Award summary.

An employee is covered by the award if there’s an award classification that covers them. More information on classifications and how to apply them to employees can be found from Award classifications.

General building and construction

General building and construction work includes the building of residential or commercial structures. For example, homes or offices.

It can also include the:

  • extension, restoration, repair and maintenance of these types of buildings
  • dismantling or demolition of buildings
  • site clearance works, including earth-moving and excavation
  • landscaping work as part of a construction project.

Example: General building and construction coverage

Billy wants to start a business that demolishes residential homes. He’s not sure what award would cover this new business and what to pay his employees.

Billy goes to fairwork.gov.au and uses the free Find my award tool. He sees that ‘demolition labourer’ in the building and construction industry points him to the Building and Construction Award.

After also reading the Building and Construction Award summary, Billy believes his business is covered by the Building and Construction Award.

Billy can now check the rules for pay and working conditions (like breaks and rosters) in the award for his employees.

Learn more about general building and construction coverage by reading clauses 2 and 4 in the Building and Construction Award.

Civil construction

Civil construction sector work includes the construction, maintenance and demolition of:

  • civil and engineering projects, including roads and transport works
  • car parks
  • other large projects.

It also includes related work such as traffic management around construction sites.

Example: Civil construction coverage

Shay is a traffic controller working at a highway roadwork site. She doesn’t know what her award is or if she’s getting the right pay.

Shay goes to fairwork.gov.au and uses the Pay and Conditions Tool to check her pay.

Shay first searches for ‘traffic controller’. Based on her selections, the tool suggests that she may be covered by the Building and Construction Award.

Next, Shay reads about who the award covers and sees that it covers employees providing traffic management in the civil construction industry. She now believes that this is the award that covers her.

Shay then finishes using the Pay and Conditions Tool to calculate her pay and entitlements to check she’s getting the right pay. She bookmarks the tool for future reference.

Find out more on industry coverage by reading clauses 2 and 4 in the Building and Construction Award.

Metal and engineering

The metal and engineering sector can cover employees performing metal trades work as part of a construction project.

This may include fabrication and installation work carried out during the construction of:

  • power stations
  • plant facilities
  • transmission towers
  • lifts and escalators.

Example: Metal and engineering coverage

Fred is an electrical tradesperson who’s started a new job installing lifts. He notices that his pay is different to when he worked in cabling services.

Fred’s workmate tells him that they’re covered by the Building and Construction Award.

Fred visits fairwork.gov.au and finds the Building and Construction Award from the List of awards page. He sees that the award covers employees in the lift industry.

Fred can now look up his entitlements, including calculating his wages using our Pay and Conditions Tool.

Understand more about industry coverage by reading clauses 2 and 4 in the Building and Construction Award.

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Other construction-related industries

Some employers and employees working in building and construction may not be covered by the Building and Construction Award. While the work they do may be related to the construction industry, it still may not be covered by this award.

Employees and employers may be covered by a more specific industry or occupational award. This can include the:

Tip: Use our award tools

You can work out your award coverage by using our 3-step Find my award tool.

Awards are also available in one A-Z list from our List of awards page.

If you’re an employer, you can follow the steps to find the right award from I’m not sure which award covers my business.

It’s important to know what award covers an employer and employee because pay and entitlements will differ from award to award.

Example: Employer not covered by the Building and Construction Award

Joe runs a plumbing business that does repairs in residential plumbing and gutters.

Joe has been able to reach an agreement with a large construction company for a new project. The work is help with fitting plumbing fixtures in a large residential project that is approaching completion.

Because Joe’s business is still performing plumbing works temporarily on-site and isn’t involved in the building of the structure, his employees aren’t covered by the Building and Construction Award.

Instead, Joe’s business would still be covered by the Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award.

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Independent contractors in construction

Independent contractors provide services to other businesses. In the construction industry, they may also be known as sub-contractors.

Independent contractors are different from employees. They may work on the same site as employees covered by the Building and Construction Award but will not be covered by it.

Learn the differences between independent contractors and employees can from our Independent contractors page.

Tip: Check out our guide

Think you could be an employee and not a contractor?

We have a free step-by-step to help you resolve this issue: I think I could be an employee not a contractor.

Security of payment

Independent contractors and businesses enter into contracts for building and construction work. Sometimes disputes arise around those contracts.

Security of payment refers to a building contractor’s right to receive payments that are due under their contract. Each state and territory has its own security of payment laws that provide a statutory mechanism for resolving payment disputes.

Find out more about security of payment laws for the building and construction sector.

Resolving a workplace problem

Problems can happen in any workplace. If you have a workplace problem, we have free tools and information to help you resolve it.

Check out our Fixing a workplace problem section for practical information about:

  • working out if there is a problem
  • speaking with your employer or employee about fixing the problem
  • getting help from us if you can't fix the problem.

We also have free online training about having difficult conversations in the workplace – go to our Online learning centre now.

Tip: Read a step-by-step guide

Want a step-by-step guide? Employees and employers can use our free and simple guides to resolve a workplace problem. They include guides on:

Go to our Common workplace problem section now.

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Our activities in the sector

The building and construction industry is one of our regulatory priorities for the 2023-24 financial year.

Our work in the sector includes:

  • investigating non-compliance with the Fair Work Act
  • underpayments of wages and entitlements
  • breaches of protections at work (including union activities).

You can read more on compliance work from our Compliance and enforcement page.

Stay up to date with our activity in the building and construction industry by visiting our Newsroom and using the search function.

Keep up to date

If you’d like to receive personalised workplace information, updates to entitlements and news about your industry, sign up to My account. It’s a free and easy way to do online training and keep updated all in one spot.

Tip: Subscribe to email updates

Make sure you subscribe to email updates to get told when workplace laws change.

We send out:

  • alerts about pay and award changes, including for the building and construction industry
  • important industry updates
  • our employer newsletter
  • media releases.

You can also follow us on social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

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Tools and resources

Related information

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