Employees with disability pay rates

The Supported Wage System (SWS) applies to employees who have a reduced work capacity because they have a disability. You can use our Pay Calculator to calculate pay rates for employees who are on a supported wage.

The Department of Social Services gives information and advice on who is eligible for the SWS and accepts applications or deals with disputes. An employer who is considering the SWS should visit the JobAccess website.external-icon.png

When can a supported wage be paid?

If an employee is covered by an award or registered agreement, supported wage can only be paid if the award or agreement has SWS provisions, the employee is eligible and the employer has applied to the Department of Social Services.

An employee with disability can be paid a percentage of the relevant minimum rate, based on their assessed work capacity. For example, someone with an assessed work capacity of 70% will get 70% of the classification in the award or registered agreement. Only a qualified assessor can conduct this assessment.

In most awards, employees cannot be paid less than $84 per week.

Employees can work a trial period for the SWS. During the trial period, the employee's capacity is assessed by a qualified assessor. Most employees still have to be paid at least $84 per week for the trial period. 

What are the exceptions? 

From 1 July 2018, and for a short time between October and November 2017, exceptions apply for employees covered by the Supported Employment Services Award 2010. Read below for more information.

If there are no SWS provisions in the award or registered agreement, an employee with disability must be paid the full pay rate for their classification.

If an employee’s disability doesn't affect the way they can do their job, they're not covered by the SWS and get the full pay rate.

Changes to the Supported Employment Services Award 2010 from 1 July 2018

From 1 July 2018, changes in relation to supported wages under Schedule D of the Supported Employment Services Award 2010 [MA000103] external-icon.png  will take effect. 

As a result of a Fair Work Commission (Commission) decision external-icon.png  on 10 October 2017, these changes were also in effect for a short time from the first full pay period starting on or after 17 October 2017. The Commission issued a determination on 8 November 2017 to vary the award again so that:

  • the changes stopped applying from the first full pay period on or after 8 November 2017
  • the changes would instead be implemented from 1 July 2018.

What are the changes?

Employees eligible for a supported wage in accordance with Schedule D of the award will no longer be entitled to a minimum weekly payment.

The supported wage will be calculated differently to other awards. The applicable percentage of the relevant minimum rate will be the higher of:

  • the employee’s assessed work capacity, rounded to the nearest whole percentage, or
  • 12.5%.

Under the award, employees must also be paid at least 12.5% of the relevant minimum hourly pay rate for each hour worked during the trial period. 

For more information about pay when these changes don't apply, read When can a supported wage be paid?

What about award and agreement free employees?

If an employee isn't covered by an award or registered agreement, their minimum pay rate is set by the national minimum wage.

An employee with disability can be paid a percentage of the national minimum wage, based on their assessed work capacity. For example, someone with a work capacity of 70% will get 70% of the national minimum wage. Only a qualified assessor can conduct this assessment.

Employees cannot be paid less than $84 per week.

Think a mistake might have been made?

Mistakes can happen. The best way to fix them usually starts with talking.

Check out our Help resolving workplace issues section for practical advice on:

  • figuring out if a mistake has been made
  • talking to your employer or employee about fixing it
  • getting help from us if you can't resolve it.

What to do next

Help for small business

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