Retail Awards and Agreements

BY ARA Retail Institute
03 March 2017

Awards and Agreements prescribe the wages and conditions of work in the industry and have the force of law. It is important for retailers to know the difference between Awards and Agreements, as some retail employees find that they are better off with the Retail Award, while others feel that an Agreement provides them with better employment conditions. Understanding the legalities of employment conditions can be difficult, and misunderstandings can lead to unfair workplace conditions for employees and, in some cases, employers. Part of being able to work effectively in the retail environment involves knowing employee rights, communicating those rights and ensuring that employment conditions are fair, equitable and in line with relevant legislation.

What are retail awards and agreements?


An Award is a legally binding document that sets out the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees covered by it.  Also referred to as 'Modern Awards', they confirm minimum terms and conditions for workers in a particular industry. They include details on pay rates; hours of work; sick leave; annual leave; public holidays; superannuation; meal breaks and times; protective clothing and more.

Modern Awards were created to establish one set of minimum conditions for employers and employees across Australia who work in the same industries and occupations.  Some large retail organisations have registered their own retail Award - Coles, Target and Woolworths are examples of this. These Awards are determined by negotiation between employers in the retail industry (or a representative), and associations such as a union. 


Agreements set out the conditions of employment between an employee or group of employees and their employer.

Agreements were created to increase productivity by making employment conditions and rates of pay more agreeable to workers. Agreements provide the chance for employee and employer to benefit by offering more attractive employment conditions.

Enterprise Agreements can include a broad range of matters such as:RI WE&C.png

It is important to understand that an employee’s rights under an Agreement cannot be any less than the rights they would have under their industry Award.

The advantage of Agreements is that an individual workplace (or group of workplaces) can tailor their employment conditions to suit their individual workplace environment. However, not all retail employees will benefit from an Agreement - conditions can vary greatly from business to business.

Australian minimum employment standards

The national workplace relations system covers the majority of businesses in Australia and applies nationally. This means that employers and employees in the national system have the same rights and obligations, regardless of the State or Territory they work in. 

The national system has a number of features that employers and employees must make sure they comply with, including:

  • Maximum weekly hours
  • Parental leave
  • Annual leave Personal/Carer’s leave
  • Community Service Leave
  • Notice of termination
  • Redundancy pay
  • Long Service Leave
  • Public holidays

Modern Awards, together with the National Employment Standards (NES) and the national minimum wage order, make up a new safety net for employees covered by the national workplace relations system. Only certain entitlements in the NES apply to casual employees.

RI WE&C 2.png

From 1 January 2010, Modern Awards operate with the NES and regulate minimum terms for a specific industry or occupation. 

Communicating changes

Retailers that are covered by an Award are required by law to have a copy of the relevant Award available and accessible to all staff. Recently the Fair Work Commission issued a reduction in the Sunday Penalty Rate under the General Retail Industry Award 2010 (GRIA) from double time (200%) to time and a half (150%).

To explain in finer detail some of the conditions of employment for your team, it is important you understand the Award that relates to your business. To access your industry specific Award head to the Fair Work Commission website. To understand the full effects of the Penalty Rates Decision click here.  

Want to learn to effectively communicate with your retail team? The ARA Retail Institute provides leading accredited training options including the Certificate III in Retail Operations.
Find out more here


Find more
 information about the services provided by The ARA Retail Institute here.

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ARA Retail Institute is Australia’s leading retail training provider for both accredited and non-accredited learning programs. The ARA Retail Institute is a Government Registered Training Organisation (RTO) making it fully qualified to offer retail education programs to ARA members and broader retail industry.

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