I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually paid attention to a payslip, and I’ve been working at least on a casual basis for a good 13+ years. And tbh, I never truly learned how to read a payslip. Like all those extra sections beyond ‘here’s your total pay’. I continue to not pay attention to my payslip despite having had an ‘incident’ that very much proved exactly why you should be.
Back in my (first round of) uni days, I was working a minimum wage cafe job between my unpaid internship and full-time study. I had a 19th birthday during this time, and it wasn’t until about four to five months later that a colleague happened to mention that the minimum wage goes up as your age does, until you get to 21 years old.
Now I had no idea and hadn’t asked for the pay rise from my employer, but they sure as shit had all my details including my birthday. And I’d imagine as the owners and operators of their business, who gave my colleagues their appropriate wage increases, that they were also fully aware of the age rule. A quick check of my payslip showed that whether this was true or not, they hadn’t been paying me what I was owed.
This turned into a ‘discussion’ in which they legally owed me the backpay and they tried very hard not to pay it, mostly by way of blaming me for not telling them to up my pay when I got older, despite their legal requirements.
In the end, I only got back pay for the hours I still had my payslips for. Yep, at this point, I was also stupid enough not to hold on to my little paper slip either. That amount ended up being a couple of grand, but if I had all my slips, it would have been a couple more.
Was I taken advantage of? Absolutely. Could I have avoided it by paying attention to my pay (and in this case, also knowing my pay rights)? Absolutely.
In summary, you can’t just trust that your employer is doing the right thing. You could very easily be losing wages or even superannuation that you’re owed.
That doesn’t even mean they’re ripping you off on purpose, even a good employer can make mistakes. But the simple truth is only you care enough to bring mistakes to anyone’s attention.
With that in mind, let’s have a squiz at what we should even be looking at on our payslips. Full disclosure, the research for this article was just as much for my benefit as it was for yours.
What Info Does You Payslip Include?
According to Fair Work Australia, the people who would absolutely know, there are seven details your payslip legally must include. They are: the name of employer and employee, the pay period and date of payment, gross and net pay, your pay rate and the number of hours worked at that rate, loadings, allowances, penalty rates, and any other entitlements, details of any deductions, and how much super was paid.
What Is The Minimum Wage You Should Be Paid?
If you’re 21 years of age or older, you should be getting at least $18.93 an hour or $719.20 per 38-hour working week. At this age, casual employees are entitled to 25% casual loading – aka. the extra money you’re paid because you don’t get sick or annual leave – which adds up to a pay rate of $23.66.
If you’re under 21, check out this handy calculator on the Fair Work Australia website to know what your minimum wage legally must be. Then check your payslip to make sure you’re getting it!
How Much Should You Be Taxed?
As per the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), income tax is usually only deducted once you start earning over $18,200, or at least until your paycheck looks like you’ll be earning that much in a year. On top of that is a 2% Medicare levy if you’re required to pay it. Tax return time is pretty magical to anyone who’s been taxed extra, or has a bit to claim.
You can check the full tax rate thresholds for 2018-19 on the ATO website right here.
How Much Super Should You Be Getting?
According to Industry Super Australia, a third of Aussies are missing super they’re owed, to a combined number of $16 million a day. Superannuation is a little harder to keep track of because even though the number appears on your payslip, it only has to be paid into your super account quarterly. But clearly, it’s something we should be checking.
Most super accounts are electronic and some will let you set up an alert for payments made. Otherwise, just make sure you’re logging in on the reg to make sure those quarterly payments are making it into your account.
What Information Your Employer Must Keep
Ok yeah, this one is making me MAD because I’m only just NOW realising that the stupid cafe was legally obligated to have a record of my worked hours and they literally just turned the responsibility on young me because they were 100% taking advantage. But they’re closed down now, so jokes on them.
While it’s smart for you to keep track of your own records – seriously, please, please do this – your employer is legally required to keep a record of your general info, the pay rates and actual pay they’ve given you, THE HOURS YOU’VE WORKED, any leave you’ve taken and superannuation contributions they’ve made for you.
There’s more too, find further details over here on the Fair Work website.
What Do You Do If Your Payslips Are Wrong?
Obviously, after reading this you’re going to start being all responsible and actually collect/ read your payslips so I can die a hero. When you do that, on the chance you notice there has been a mistake, or that information is missing, or even if you’re only just now realising that not being given payslips is illegal, what do you do?
First step is talking to your employer. As I said, these things can genuinely happen accidentally, especially when there’s a lot of employees to keep track of. Hopefully, they’ll be mortified and fix it for you right way.
If they’re not, you’ll want to raise the issue to Fair Work Australia, which you can do here. They basically act as mediators, though they can’t force any legal action on anyone. So if their intervention still isn’t helping, but they’ve made it clear that you’re legally entitled to what you believe you are, then you’re going to have to take legal action. That same link has details on how to start this process.
I sincerely hope you never find yourself in a situation where you need to do that!Image: Parks & Rec