Contract cleaning businesses provide cleaning services under contract. We have information and guidance for employees, employers and independent contractors in the contract cleaning industry.
Workers in the contract cleaning industry may be working for:
- the business that holds the cleaning contract
- another business that has been subcontracted by the business that holds the contract (known as a subcontractor)
- a third-party labour hire service provider
- a private household.
On this page:
Entitlements in the contract cleaning industry
Workers in the cleaning industry will have different rights and obligations, depending on whether they are hired as employees or independent contractors.
An employee is a person that’s employed to work for a company on either a full-time, part-time or casual basis in exchange for payment.
Employees’ minimum entitlements are found in:
- the National Employment Standards (NES)
- awards, such as the Cleaning Award.
The NES are 11 minimum employment entitlements that have to be provided to all employees. For more information, see National Employment Standards.
An award is a legal document that sets out minimum pay rates and conditions of employment.
A registered agreement or employment contract can provide for other entitlements, but they can’t be less than what’s in the NES or, broadly, the award that applies.
Example: Understanding where minimum entitlements come from
Morgan wants to start a new home cleaning business. Before she starts hiring employees, she needs to find out about minimum pay rates and entitlements.
Morgan visits fairwork.gov.au and learns that minimum pay rates and conditions of employment come from both the National Employment Standards and a document called a modern award. The modern award that she needs to use depends on the industry of her business, and the type of work her employees do.
She uses the Find my award tool and finds out that the Cleaning Services Award 2020 (Cleaning Award) applies to her employees. This is because her business provides cleaning services under a contract, and the type of work the employees will do is covered by the definition in the Cleaning Award of a Cleaning Services Employee Level 1.
The Cleaning Award has rules about rights and obligations, including:
- minimum pay rates
- whether an employee is casual, part-time, or full-time
- penalty rates (for example, for working weekends or after hours)
- allowances (for example, for toilet cleaning or an employee using their own vehicle)
Morgan reads through the Cleaning Award carefully, to make sure she understands the pay rates, entitlements, and other conditions she must provide to her employees.
Independent contractors provide agreed services under a contract for those services. They usually negotiate their own fees and working arrangements and can work for more than one client at a time.
Independent contractors are not covered by awards.
For more information on workplace entitlements for independent contractors, see Independent contractors.
Employee or independent contractor
Whether a worker is an employee or a contractor is determined by the nature of the relationship, not what the arrangement is called.
Sometimes a business (or individual) may tell a worker that they are an independent contractor when in fact they are an employee. If the business knew or should have known the worker was an employee, this is known as sham contracting.
The Cleaning Award
If you’re an employee or employer in the contract cleaning industry, you’re most likely covered by the Cleaning Award.
For more information on who the Cleaning Award does and doesn’t cover, see our Cleaning Award summary.
If you’re not sure which award applies to you, see Find my award.
Types of employment
There are different entitlements depending on whether an employee is:
For example, under the Cleaning Award:
- full-time employees work an average of 38 hours per week
- part-time and casual employees both get an hourly loading applied to their base pay rate.
Casual employees may also be eligible to request or be offered permanent (full-time or part-time) employment. This is known as casual conversion.
For more information, see:
Pay and wages
Employees must be paid for their work in money. The amount an employee needs to be paid can depend on their age, duties and hours of work.
Payment also needs to include any penalty rates, overtime and other award entitlements for that pay period. For example, if an employee is covered by the Cleaning Award, they may be eligible for allowances that apply for:
- working a broken shift
- using their own vehicle
- cleaning toilets.
Other tools to help you with pay rates are:
Learn more about minimum wages, penalty rates, overtime and allowances on our Pay and wages page.
Example: Minimum rates of pay
Carlos is an international student who works part-time as a cleaner for a business, cleaning homes and apartments. This is Carlos’ first job in Australia and he is paid a flat rate of $20 per hour every day. Carlos’ friend tells him that doesn’t sound right, and he should look into it.
Carlos uses the Pay and Conditions Tool on fairwork.gov.au to check his pay rate. Carlos learns he is a casual Cleaning Services Employee Level 1 and that his pay rate comes from the Cleaning Services Award 2020 (Cleaning Award). Under the Cleaning Award some of the minimum rates of pay from 1 July 2022 for a casual Level 1 employee are:
- $28.45 per hour on weekdays
- $39.83 per hour on Saturdays
- $51.21 per hour on Sundays.
Carlos learns that other penalty rates and allowances can apply at other times. Carlos also learns that that minimum pay rates are reviewed every year and any increases usually apply from the first full pay period on or after 1 July each year.
Carlos prints out the pay rates and shows them to his boss. His boss says they are too high, and he can’t pay Carlos those rates.
Carlos reports the issue to the Fair Work Ombudsman using My account. He attaches evidence of the underpayment, including his pay slips and rosters, and explains that he couldn’t resolve the issue with his employer.
A Fair Work Inspector looks at the evidence and finds that the business has broken workplace laws and underpaid Carlos. The Fair Work Inspector issues a compliance notice to Carlos’ boss that requires the business to fix the underpayments within 28 days or risk facing legal action.
Two weeks later, the business back pays Carlos all the money he is owed and starts paying him the correct minimum hourly rates, penalty rates and allowances.
Employees under the Cleaning Award can’t be paid a piece rate. This means that you can’t be paid per room or per job.
Example: Can't be paid per job
Jen works full-time for a contract cleaning business. Jen’s supervisor tells her to clean a new office and that her payment will be $50 for cleaning it.
It takes Jen 4 hours to clean the new office.
Jen is covered by the Cleaning Award. As a Level 1 employee under the Cleaning Award, Jen is entitled to a minimum rate of $22.76 per hour. Therefore, she should receive more than $50.
Jen shows her supervisor the Cleaning Award and her supervisor agrees that she will be paid for the full 4 hours.
Hours of work
An employee's hours of work (including overtime) are set out in the relevant award and can be different for full-time, part-time and casual employees. Employees are also entitled to rest and meal breaks.
We have tailored information for the Cleaning Award. On the pages below, select the ‘contract cleaning services’ industry from the drop-down menu:
Employees should be paid for the work they perform. In the contract cleaning industry, this may include time spent changing into a uniform or collecting cleaning supplies.
There are very few situations in which employees aren’t paid for the work they do. Understand the different types of legitimate unpaid work and unpaid work where the person involved should be paid. For more information, see Unpaid work and Unpaid trials.
Example: Employees need to be paid for all time worked
Sun-Young has just started working for a company that cleans large shopping centres. Before her first shift she is required to attend a training session to learn about their procedures, the cleaning products they use and the tasks she must do each day.
When Sun-Young checks her first pay slip she notices she has not been paid for the training session. She has also not been paid for the time it takes her to collect and load the cleaning cart in the morning, or to return and unload the cleaning cart in the afternoon.
Sun-Young reads about unpaid work on fairwork.gov.au. She learns that because she had to attend the training, she must be paid for it. She must also be paid for all hours that the company requires her to work, including the time it takes her to collect and return the cleaning cart.
Sun-Young brings the issue to her employer Michael’s attention. She gives him the information that she found and asks him to respond, letting him know that she may request assistance from the Fair Work Ombudsman if he doesn’t reply. Michael thanks Sun-Young for letting him know. Michael says that the company will back pay Sun-Young the money she is owed in her next pay.
Taking paid sick leave
Under the NES, all employees except casuals are entitled to paid sick and carer's leave. Employers can ask employees to provide evidence for as little as 1 day or less off work. Check the relevant award to find out if there are also specific requirements about when an employee has to give evidence to their employer and what type of evidence they have to give. For example, the Cleaning Award does not provide any additional requirements around evidence beyond what the NES provides.
The type of evidence requested must always be reasonable in the circumstances. Medical certificates or statutory declarations are examples of acceptable forms of evidence.
Example: Taking sick leave without a medical certificate
Linh is a part-time employee for a contract cleaning business. She is scheduled to work on Thursday. On Thursday morning, she wakes up with a sore throat and a temperature.
Linh’s supervisor, John, has told the staff that they can only take sick leave if they give him a medical certificate as evidence that they were sick. Linh doesn’t want to go to a doctor.
Linh calls the Fair Work Ombudsman and one of the advisers tells her that she can give John a statutory declaration instead of a medical certificate. Linh then calls John and tells him she will be taking sick leave for the day and will bring in a statutory declaration when she returns to work.
Pay slips and record-keeping
Employees need to be given a pay slip within 1 working day of being paid. Pay slips can be given electronically or in hard copy. Pay slips need to include certain details about an employee’s pay. Penalties apply for providing false or misleading information on a pay slip.
Find out more on our Pay slips page.
Employers have to keep time and wages records for 7 years.
Find out what records to keep and what needs to be in them on our Record-keeping page.
Visa holders and migrant workers
Migrant workers and visa holders, including international students, have the same workplace rights as all other workers in Australia. We provide free advice and assistance to all workers to help them understand these rights.
It's important for employers and employees to know the rules of an employee’s visa. Some visas have rules about how many hours employees can work or where they can work. For example:
- international students can only work a certain number of hours per fortnight
- seasonal workers can only work in certain industries.
If there’s a problem
For a step-by-step guide to solving workplace problems, see I'm a migrant worker being treated unfairly.
An employer can't cancel an employee’s visa, even if the employee has breached their visa conditions. Only Home Affairs can grant, refuse or cancel visas.
Visa holders can seek help without fear of visa cancellation, even if they've breached their work-related visa conditions. This arrangement with Home Affairs is called the Assurance Protocol.
For more information, see Visa holders and migrant workers.
For workplace advice in your language, you can:
- translate most pages on the website by choosing your language from the menu at the top of the page
- select your language in our Language help section and find information and resources, including videos and a form to anonymously report issues
- call us through the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 – tell the operator the language you speak and ask them to telephone us on 13 13 94.
Tools and resources