Home' News Bulletin : ADA News Bulletin July 2015 Contents 38
Minimum wage entitlements
FOR EMPLOYEE DENTISTS
Each year new graduate dentists look for work and an employer
who will mentor them in their careers towards a prosperous
future. All dentist employees of incorporated or unincorporated
practices in all states (including unincorporated practices in WA)
are not covered by either a federal or state award but have
protections under the current Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the FW
Act), or if unincorporated in WA, have protections under the
Minimum Conditions of Employment standards.
Often the HR Advisory Service receives enquiries from both
graduates and experienced dentists asking what their minimum
employment entitlements are as award-free employees. Following
the changes in employment entitlements, this article will address
the rights, minimum employment entitlements and Australian
Dental Association recommendations for all employee dentists.
the federal workplace relations systeM
Since 1 July 2009, all Australian workplaces (except unincorporated
practices in WA) have been governed by the FW Act, with the
National Employment Standards (NES) coming into force from 1
January 2010. Together with modern awards, the NES provides
a safety net for all employees covered by the federal workplace
relations system. In addition to the NES, an employee’s terms
and conditions of employment generally also come from their
contract of employment. In the case of dentists however, the
Health Professionals and Support Services Award does not cover
them – therefore a dentist employee is considered “award-free”
and therefore does not follow the minimum entitlements set out
in this award. Instead, award-free employees like dentists (and
hygienists), follow the employment entitlements in the NES, the
National Minimum Wage Order (NMW) and the subsequent
negotiated arrangements, within the written or verbal agreement.
Such mechanisms form the underlying safety net for hiring an
award-free employee which cannot be undermined.
The NES provides the following entitlements for employees.
• Four weeks’ paid annual leave and 10 days’ paid personal/carer’s
leave for full-time employees and a pro-rata of this entitlement for
• Absence from work on a public holiday which falls on a day
ordinarily worked is compensated appropriately if you do or do not
work on a public holiday.
• Long service leave, which is provided for under the relevant state
based Long Service Leave Act.
• Twelve months of unpaid parental leave after twelve months of
continuous service and the right to request up to a further twelve
months of unpaid parental leave.
• The right to request flexible work arrangements to
accommodate having a disability, medical condition, parental or
caring responsibilities after continuous service of twelve months.
The interpretation of the FW Act provides that award-free
employee dentists should be paid a minimum wage for all hours
worked which is not less than the hourly rate of pay specified in
the NMW Order. Following the recent annual review by the Fair
Work Commission, the new NMW which will take effect from the
first full pay period on or after 1 July 2015 is $656.90 per week
or $17.29 per hour. This will then change again on 1 July each
The minimum compliance under the FW Act raises some issues
for employers who have historically and are currently paying
a flat commission rate “inclusive” of all the minimum work
entitlements to their employee dentists. Under the FW Act,
this is no longer acceptable and requires that all commission
wages paid must cover permanent dentists for all hours worked
regardless of whether they see a patient or not at no less than the
NMW. An award-free employee being paid commission should
also receive paid leave simultaneously to them at the time of
taking approved leave. Leave entitlements cannot be included or
compensated for by paying a higher ‘all up’ rate of commission
“...the hr advisory service
recommends that graduate dentists
should not necessarily operate as a
contractor until they have gained
experience in a dental practice.”
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