Apprentices/trainees and WorkChoices


Apprentices/trainees and WorkChoices

There has been little comment about the impact of WorkChoices on the employment conditions that relate to apprentices and trainees. Through WorkChoices, the federal government intends to create greater flexibility in the training arrangements between employers and apprentices and trainees.


Get unlimited access to all of our content.

There has been little comment about the impact of WorkChoices on the employment conditions that relate to apprentices and trainees. Through WorkChoices, the federal government intends to create greater flexibility in the training arrangements between employers and apprentices and trainees.

WorkChoices also provides for minimum wages and conditions for school-based apprentices and trainees, which commenced at the start of the 2006 school year.

Minimum pay and pre-reform instruments

The minimum and classification wages for apprentices and trainees are determined at the amounts flowing from the Australian Industrial Relations Commission's 2005 Safety Net Review.

Consequently, the rate of pay for an apprentice or trainee covered by a pre-reform federal award or a notional agreement preserving state awards (NAPSA) has been preserved until varied in the future by the Australian Fair Pay Commission (AFPC).

The rates of pay for apprentices and trainees covered under a pre-reform certified agreement, preserved state agreement or pre-reform AWA will remain subject to the specific provisions in the agreement.


The AFPC has the power to set and adjust minimum wages, including those for apprentices and trainees. The AFPC may also determine one or more Federal Minimum Wages (special FMWs) for apprentices and trainees.

School-based apprentices and trainees

School-based apprenticeships and traineeships normally allow high school students - typically Years 11 and 12 - to work with an employer as paid employees while studying for their senior certificate. At the same time, students undertake a training qualification with a registered training organisation chosen by both the employer and the student.

At work, they learn skills under the guidance of the employer, following a training plan drawn up between the employer, the apprentice or trainee, and the supervising registered training organisation.

A school-based apprenticeship or traineeship is different from the usual arrangements associated with an apprenticeship or traineeship, where the person has completed the minimum secondary education requirements of the relevant state or territory.

WorkChoices and minimum rates

Under WorkChoices, if a pre-reform award or NAPSA does not provide rates of pay for school-based apprentices or trainees, the minimum rates that apply are:

  • for school-based trainees - the school-based trainee rates under the National Training Wage Award 2000 as varied by the 2005 Safety Net Review (these rates were operative from the first pay period to commence on or after 3 July 2005); and
  • for school-based apprentices - the formula in the standard clause approved by the AIRC in 2000.

These school-based apprentices and trainees also receive full-time conditions, adjusted on a pro rata basis as necessary according to the hours worked on-the-job.

Non-allowable award matters

To create more flexibility in the employment of apprentices and trainees under WorkChoices, award provisions that restrict the range and or duration of apprenticeships or traineeships are 'non-allowable award matters' and therefore unenforceable. It is not an allowable award matter which provides 'restrictions on the range or duration of training arrangements'. For example, award provisions that state that the duration of apprenticeships under the award shall be four years are not allowable.

Previous restrictions

This means that provisions that previously restricted the operation of part-time or school-based apprenticeships or traineeships, or that prevented the introduction of shorter apprenticeships or traineeships (including competency based training arrangements) no longer have effect.

Another non-allowable award matter is a reference in an award to 'the number or proportion of employees that an employer may employ in a particular type of employment'. In the case of apprentices, an example of this would be a term common in trade-related awards that restricts the number of apprentices in a particular workplace to a proportion of one apprentice to every four tradespersons.

Work on-the-job (school-based apprentices and trainees)

WorkChoices defines on-the-job training as work that contributes directly to the productive output of the employer of the school-based apprentice or school-based trainee. Therefore, time spent studying or in other off-the-job training or education would not be regarded as work on-the-job.

Employment conditions

A school-based trainee or school-based apprentice is paid and employed under the terms and conditions applicable under the relevant award or NAPSA. However, in the absence of an award or NAPSA covering their employment, WorkChoices provides for certain conditions to apply. A school-based trainee or apprentice is entitled to any additional conditions to which a full-time person doing the same kind of work, in the same location and for the same employer would be entitled.

Loading in lieu of leave

The employer of a school-based trainee may, with the written agreement of the school-based trainee, pay a loading in lieu of paid annual leave, paid sick leave, paid personal leave and payment for public holidays.

The loading is payable for all hours worked on-the-job and is calculated using the formula: hourly rate x 20/100.

It should be noted that the loading does not compensate for work done on a public holiday. A school-based trainee who works on a public holiday would be paid the applicable hourly rate for such work.

Industrial instruments and hours

Generally under pre-WorkChoices awards, the hourly rates for full-time junior apprentices as prescribed by the applicable award apply to school based apprentices for total hours worked including time deemed to be spent off-the-job.

Generally an industrial instrument will provide that the time spent in off-the-job training for which the apprentice is paid is deemed to be 25 per cent of the actual hours each week worked on-the-job. The wages paid for training time may be averaged over the semester or year.


WorkChoices legislation & the Australian Fair Pay Commission

Employing apprentices: an overview - 2004



Post details