Outworkers

Outworkers are people who work at home or at a place that isn’t a typical business premises. This could include for example, a garage attached to a person’s house. There are special rules that apply to outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry.

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Understanding outworker entitlements

Most outworkers work in the textile, clothing and footwear industry. They are covered by the Textile and Clothing Award.

Outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry work from a place not usually considered a business premises, such as their home or a residential garage. Their work typically involves:

  • making clothing, bags or footwear
  • cutting, sewing, or finishing work, such as embroidery or sewing tags onto apparel
  • manufacturing buttons and textiles.

An outworker in the textile, clothing and footwear industry can be an employee or a contractor. Both employee and contractor outworkers in this industry are considered to be employees for most protections under the Fair Work Act. 

Outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry are engaged by a principal.  

A principal can be an employer, or a person or business that arranges work for the outworker - called an outworker entity.

Principals who engage outworkers should be aware of their responsibilities and obligations.

A principal must be registered by a Board of Reference.

Outworker rules and obligations under the Fair Work Act and the Textile and Clothing Award need to be considered together with any state or territory laws that apply.

You can learn more about what is required at our Engaging Outworkers page.

Entitlements for employees in other industries can be found at Outworkers employed in another industry.

Minimum pay and conditions

Most outworkers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry are covered by the Textile and Clothing Award.

The Textile and Clothing Award is a legal document that sets out wages and other conditions for outworkers. It applies even when there’s a registered agreement in place that covers the outworker.

Schedule F of the Textile and Clothing Award provides the minimum pay and conditions for outworkers. Outworkers need to:

  • be engaged on a full-time or regular part-time basis
  • receive at least the minimum award pay rate for their appropriate classification, even if they’re a pieceworker
  • get overtime, certain allowances and penalties
  • get the minimum entitlements in the National Employment Standards.

Outworkers are paid by the minute, which is equal to 1/2280 of the weekly rate.

Part-time employees are entitled to work at least 15 hours per week. This can be reduced to 10 hours per week with the agreement of the relevant union in the employee’s state or territory.

Entitlements in the Textile and Clothing Award apply to all outworkers, except for the list of excluded provisions that are listed in clause F.5.8. The excluded clauses include entitlements that are already in Schedule F or are specific to working in a usual workplace environment such as in a factory or warehouse. These include:

  • hours of work
  • when overtime applies
  • payment of wages
  • rest breaks
  • certain allowances.

For a full list of what does not apply, refer to clause F.5.8 of the Textile and Clothing Award.

Information outworkers have to be given

Written agreements

The principal and outworker have to make a written agreement before any new arrangements start. The agreement has to be: 

  • clear  
  • simple 
  • in a language that the outworker understands.  

The agreement has to say whether work will be on a full-time or part-time basis. 

If the outworker is part-time, the agreement must also include information about: 

  • the agreed number of hours of work each week,  
  • whether the hours will be averaged over a specific period, which can be up to 4 weeks. 

The principal has to give the outworker a copy of the agreement and allow them time to read and understand the terms before they sign it. 

Work records

The principal has to make a written work record for the worker, and give them a copy, before they start. 

This record must contain information including:

  • the principal’s name, address and ABN, ACN or registered business number
  • the outworker’s name and address
  • the address where work will be performed
  • the time and date for starting and finishing the work, including delivery and pick up times
  • a description of the work required and the garments, articles or material to be worked on (including diagrams, where available, and details of the type of article, seam and fabric, and how it’s to be made)
  • the number of garments, articles or materials of each type
  • details of the time standard used to decide how much time is needed for work on each item. The time requirement must be fair and reasonable and provide:
    • more time for work to be performed than the time standard set for comparable work in a workshop or factory
    • reasonable additional time to perform related tasks such as bundling and unbundling, sorting and packing
  • the price to be paid for each garment, article or material completed
  • the number of working hours to complete the work
  • the number of hours or days within the ordinary working week needed to complete the work
  • the total amount to be paid to the outworker.

The full list of work record requirements can be found in clause F.3.2 of the Textile and Clothing award.

Schedule F

An outworker in the textile, clothing and footwear industry has to be given a copy of Schedule F of the Textile and Clothing Award by their principal or employer.

This information must be in a language that the outworker understands.

Schedule F includes an information sheet that sets out some of the entitlements an outworker has to get, including:

  • pay rates
  • hours of work
  • leave and public holidays.

Tools and supplies

All materials, trimming and sewing threads that are required for an outworker to do their work have to be provided by the principal. These need to be delivered to, and collected from, the outworker at no cost to the outworker.

Outworkers employed in another industry

Outworkers employed in an industry other than the textile, clothing and footwear industry are entitled to the same pay and conditions as other employees covered by their relevant award.

You can find your award and pay rates using our Pay and Conditions Tool.

Tools and resources