The Ultimate Legal Services Award (MA000116) Summary

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Everything you need to know about the Legal Services Award (MA000116), without the jargon.


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The Legal Services Award is a complex and ever-evolving Modern Award focused in several sectors and has a broad coverage in one of the country's biggest industries.

You can read also read our article that covers the 7 conditions commonly missed by employers in the Legal Services Award.

In addition, you can download a FREE copy of our Legal Services Award eBook that covers everything you need to know about the award, without the jargon which comes with a BONUS payroll processing checklist. 

This summary provides will provide you a comprehensive understanding of everything you need to know about the Legal Services Award to ensure you have maximum compliance.

Please note that every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided in this guide is accurate. You should note, however, that the information is intended as a guide only, providing an overview of general information available. This guide is not intended to be an exhaustive source of information and should not be seen to constitute legal or tax advice. You should, where necessary, seek a second professional opinion for any legal or tax issues raised in your business affairs.

The following businesses are covered under the Legal Services Award: 

  • legal services; and 
  • legal support services. 


The Legal Services Award also covers:

  • on-hire employees - who are employees that are supplied to the employer’s client to work under them; and 
  • employers who provide group training services for apprentices and trainees engaged in the legal services industry.   


However, the Legal Services Award does NOT cover:

  • community legal centres; 
  • Aboriginal legal services; and 
  • an employer whose primary activity is not within the legal services industry. 

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  • full-time
  • part-time; or
  • casual


Full-Time Employees

To be classified as a full-time employee under the Legal Services Award, they must work an average of 38 ordinary hours per week.


Part-Time Employees

To be classified a part-time employee, they must: 

  • work less than 38 hours per week;
  • work a minimum of 3 hours per day; and 
  • receive, on a pro-rata basis, pay and conditions equivalent to full-time employees. 

Before starting work as a part-time employee, the employer and employee must agree (in writing) on: 

  • a regular pattern of work which details hours to be worked every day, which days of the week the employee will work as well as the starting and finishing times of the workday; and 
  • their classification. 

The above agreement can be changed with consent from both the employer and the employee, but it must be done in writing. 


Casual Employees

Under the Legal Services Award, a casual employee is an employee that doesn’t fit into the full- or part-time categories and who works on an hourly basis. 

A casual employee must be paid for at least 4 hours of work per day that they are scheduled to work. 

Instead of receiving paid leave benefits, casual workers are paid an additional 25% loading on top of their minimum hourly rate. 


Right to Request Casual Conversion

A regular casual employee is someone who is employed casually on a regular basis for at least 12 months. 

In some cases, a casual employee can apply to have their employment contract changed into a part-time or full-time contract depending on the number of hours they regularly work:

  • An employee that works an average of 38 or more hours a week over 12 months may elect to change over to a full-time contract
  • An employee that works an average of fewer than 38 hours a week over 12 months may elect to change over to a part-time contract

The employer has full discretion to accept, in writing, or refuse the request. However, if the employer chooses to deny the request, it needs to be based on reasonable grounds, such as:

  • to fulfil the requirements of the new employment type, there is a significant change to the number of work hours;
  • the casual position may not exist in the next 12 months; 
  • the casual position may have reduced working hours within the next 12 months; or 
  • there is likely to be significant changes in the casual employee’s work days and times within the next 12 months that doesn’t suit the employee’s availability.

All grounds of refusal should be known or reasonably foreseeable.

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  • ordinary hours of work run between Monday and Friday, so an employee can work either day or all of the days of the week; 
  • the average ordinary hours are 38 hours per week; and 
  • the average ordinary hours must not be more than 152 hours per 28 days. 


Span of Hours

Ordinary hours must be worked between 7.00 am and 6.30 pm. 

The span of hours can be changed up to one hour by agreement with the employer, but overtime rates must be paid. 

For example, Zoe can amend her span of hours to work until 7.30 pm to start later in the mornings. Her employer agrees, but they are now liable to pay Zoe an overtime rate for the hours worked between 6.30 pm and 7.30 pm. 


Rostered Days Off

Where an employee and employer agree on rostered days off, the arrangement must outline: 

  • the method of collecting time towards a rostered day off; and 
  • the agreed method of accumulating and taking rostered days off. 



A shiftworker is an employee who works shifts and gets an extra payment for working shift hours.

The table below outlines the difference between a continuous shiftworker and a non-continuous shiftworker:

Continuous shiftworker

Non-continuous shiftworker

Continuous shiftwork means work done by employees where the hours of work are regularly rotated in accordance with a shift roster covering 24 hours per day over a 6 day week

*except for breakdowns or meal breaks or due to unavoidable causes beyond the control of an employer.

Non-continuous shiftwork means work regularly rotated in accordance with a roster which prescribes 2 or more shifts (day, afternoon or night) per day, but does not cover a 24 hour per day operation over a 6 day week.

*except for breakdowns or meal breaks or due to unavoidable causes beyond the control of an employer.


The ordinary hours of work for continuous and non-continuous shiftworkers must be an average of 38 hours per week and must not be more than 152 hours in 28 consecutive days.

Except at the regular changeover of shifts, a continuous and non-continuous shiftworker must not be required to work more than one shift every 24 hours. 


Daylight Saving

If your employee's work shift spreads across the start or finish of daylight savings, they will be paid according to adjusted time.

This means the time on the clock at the beginning of work and the time on the clock at the end of work. 


Sarah is a shiftworker at a local legal practice firm and regularly works from 9.00 pm on Saturday until 5.00 am on Sunday. 

When daylight savings started and the time was adjusted from 2.00 am to 3.00 am, Sarah only worked 7 hours but she was paid for 8. 

However, when the daylight savings time was adjusted from 3.00 am 2.00 am, and Sarah worked from 9.00 pm to 5.00 am, she was paid for 8 hours, although she worked 9. 


Make-up Time

Employees can choose to work make up time for time off during ordinary hours by working those hours at a later time.

Shiftwork employees can also do the same and be paid at the rate that they had taken time off, not the make up time. 

For example, a shiftwork employee who makes up time on an overnight shift on Friday for their day shift on Tuesday should be paid ordinary rates rather than the 150% penalty rate.

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Paid rest break

Unpaid meal break

All employees will be allowed 2 x paid rest breaks on each day.

1 x 30-60 minute meal break must be taken before 5 hours of work.

If suitable to the employer, paid rest breaks can be taken as follows: 

  • the first of 10 minutes between start time and unpaid meal break; and 

  • the second of 10 minutes between the unpaid meal break and finish time. 

If an employee doesn’t take an unpaid meal break before 5 hours of work, they must be: 

  • paid an extra 50% of their ordinary hourly rate for the meal break; and 

  • are allowed to have their meal break without deduction from their wages, as soon as possible after 5 working hours. 

All employees who work more than 4 hours on a Saturday before 12 noon must be allowed a paid rest break of 10 minutes between starting work and finishing work.



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Please also refer to the minimum rates for different classifications here.

If you aren't sure about the classification structure, we break it down in our Legal Services Award eBook.

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Employers must ensure that a salary staff's annual wage can't be less than what they would've been paid over the year if they were paid all the award entitlements for their job. 

If you have salary staff covered by the Legal Services Award, check out our Ultimate Guide on Annualised Salary Changes.

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  • Meal allowance: if your employee is required to work more than 1 hour overtime with, you must supply them with a meal or pay them an allowance.
  • Uniform allowance: where a specialised uniform or special clothing is required but not supplied and laundered by the employer, the employee is entitled to an allowance.
  • Vehicle allowance: where an employer requires an employee to use their own motor vehicle or motorcycle in the performance of their duties, the employee must be paid an allowance.
  • Overtime transport: where an employee needs to arrange alternative transport due to having to work overtime beyond being able to access a reasonable means of transport, the employer must reimburse them for the cost of the alternative transport to get home.
  • Living away from home allowance: an employee, who has to work away from their usual workplace, and may have to sleep away from home, is entitled to the following allowances: 
  • fares allowance
  • travelling time allowance; and a 
  • board and lodging allowance.

Search our database for all relevant allowances to your modern award.

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A rate of 9.5% of an employee’s ordinary earnings must be contributed to a nominated fund.

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Overtime Rates

The table below outlines the overtime rates that need to be paid to day-workers and non-continuous shiftworkers: 

For overtime worked on

Full-time and part-time employees

% of the minimum hourly rate

Casual employees 

% of the minimum hourly rate 

Minimum payment

Monday to Saturday until 12.00 pm- first 3 hours



Monday to Saturday until 12.00 pm- after 3 hours



Saturday after 12.00 pm and Sunday



3 hours

Public Holiday



3 hours


For full-time and part-time continuous shiftworkers, the rate for working overtime is 200% of the minimum hourly rate.

For casual continuous shiftworkers, the rate for working overtime is 225% of the minimum hourly rate.


Overtime Rest Breaks

An employee working overtime must be allowed a paid rest break of 20 minutes without deduction of pay after every 4 hours of overtime worked (if they have to continue work after the rest break). 

Where an employee has to work overtime immediately after their ordinary hours of work, and the overtime is more than 1.5 hours, they must be allowed to take a 20-minute rest break (paid at their ordinary rate of pay). 


Time Off Instead of Payment for Overtime

It is possible for an employer and employee to agree (in writing) to taking time off for their overtime, instead of getting paid the overtime rates. 

Employees are entitled to take time off based on what their overtime payment would have been. For example, if a casual employee worked 2 hours overtime, they are entitled to 3 hours time off (2 x 150%).

If the employee requests it, the employer must pay the employee for overtime covered by the agreement but not taken as time off; and any payment must be made in the next pay period following the request.

Employers may not put pressure on employees to take time off instead of payment for overtime.

Time off must be taken:

  • within 6 months after the overtime is worked; and 
  • at a time within that 6 month period that is agreed on by both the employee and employer 

Should the employee not take the time-off within the 6 months, the employer must pay the employee as per the overtime rates. 

If the employee’s employment is terminated, the employer must pay the employee for the overtime work at the applicable overtime rate. 


Lara, an employee at a local legal practice, worked 4 hours overtime on a Wednesday night.

She had agreed with her employer to receive time off as opposed to getting paid for her overtime hours. 

According to the overtime rates, Lara is entitled to receive 200% of her ordinary hourly rate. So, her time off calculation will be as follows: 

4 hours x 200% overtime rate = 8 hours time off

However, this time off needs to be taken within six months of the worked overtime and at a time that is agreed on by both the employer and employee.


Rest Period After Working Overtime

Where an employee works overtime and their next rostered working day is less than 10 hours after they finish working the overtime, then the employer must either: 

  • delay the start time of their next rostered working day to allow a 10 hours break; or 
  • pay the employee at 200% of the minimum hourly rate until the employee has a break of at least 10 hours. 



If an employee is called back to their place of work after leaving, they must be paid for a minimum of 4 hours’ work as follows: 

Day-workers and non-continuous shiftworkers

% of the minimum hourly rate

Continuous shiftworkers

% of the minimum hourly rate 

150% for the first 3 hours


200% after 3 hours 



Where an employee regularly has to prepare to be called back, they will be paid for a minimum of 3 hours’ work at the correct rate above. 

If the job they were recalled to perform is completed before the 3 or 4 hours, they won’t be required to work the full time. 


Standing By

Where an employee is on stand-by and must be prepared to go back to work after their ordinary hours of work are completed, they must be paid, at their ordinary rate, for the time that they are required to stand by.


Travis has left the office of his legal practice firm at his ordinary finishing time (6.00 pm). However, part of his team was staying late to work on a big upcoming case. 

Although he was allowed to leave whilst his team stayed and worked on the case, he was required to be on stand-by in case they had hit a roadblock and needed help. 

Travis was on stand by until 11.00 pm after which the team went home. 

Therefore, his employer was required to pay Travis, at his ordinary rate, for 5 hours of standing by. 

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The table below outlines the penalty rates for shiftworkers: 


Penalty rate

Casual penalty rate

(inclusive of 25% loading)


6.00 pm-midnight




midnight- 8.00 am



Early morning 

5.00 am - 6.00am 



Non-continuous afternoon or night shift

first 3 hours



Non-continuous afternoon or night shift

after 3 hours



Permanent night (works only night shift)









Public Holiday - continuous shiftworkers



Public Holiday - non-continuous shiftworkers




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Payment for Annual Leave Loading

Under the Restaurant Industry Award, a rate of 17.5% leave loading on top of their annual leave is applied when an employee takes paid time off.

Employees must be paid the higher of:

  • An annual leave loading of 17.5% of their ordinary pay rate; or
  • The weekend and shift penalties the employee would have received if they weren’t on leave during that period.


If a full-time employee applies for leave between Thursday this week and Wednesday next week, they would typically work 8 hours of shiftwork on a Saturday. 

The employer must calculate 38 hours, including a 17.5% leave loading and compare with how much the employee will typically receive if they had been paid working across that period with the Saturday penalty rates.

Whichever of the two calculations is higher is how much the employee should be paid across that period of time, not for individual days.

The idea is so that the employee is protected from being paid less for going on paid annual leave. 


Alternative Leave Arrangements: 

  • Leave in advance: employers and employees may agree in writing to the employee taking a period of paid annual leave before the employee has accrued the leave. 
  • Cashing out annual leave: employers and employees may agree in writing to cashing out a particular amount of an employee’s accrued paid annual leave. 
  • Excessive leave accruals: employers and employees may agree in writing on how to reduce or eliminate excessive leave accrual. An excessive leave accrual is defined as having accrued more than 8 weeks paid annual leave, or 10 weeks for a shift worker.  

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According to the NES, all employees are entitled to a paid day off on a public holiday (or unpaid for casual employees), except where reasonably expected to work. 

However, an employer and employee may agree to substitute another day for a day that would otherwise be a public holiday under the NES.

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Paid study leave may be taken for a period or periods agreed between the employer and employee.

The employer can’t unreasonably refuse to agree to a request by the employee to take paid study leave. 

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Notice of Termination by an Employee

An employee classified under the Legal Services Award must give their employer notice of termination as below:

Employee’s period of continuous service with the employer
at the end of the day, the notice is given

Period of notice

Not more than 1 year

1 week

More than 1 year but not more than 3 years

2 weeks

More than 3 years but not more than 5 years

3 weeks

More than 5 years

4 weeks

The notice that an employee is required to give is the same required of an employer, except the employee does not have to provide additional notice based on their age.

If an employee who is at least 18 years old does not give the period of notice required, then the employer can deduct from wages due to the employee. However, no more than one week’s wages should be deducted.

If the employer has agreed to a shorter period of notice, then no deduction can be made.


Job Search Entitlement

When an employer has given notice of termination to an employee in terms of the Legal Services Award, the employee must be allocated paid time up to one day, so that they can search for new employment elsewhere. 

The allocated time should be taken when convenient to the employee and after consultation with the employer.

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You can also download a FREE copy of our Legal Services Award eBook with a BONUS payroll processing checklist to ensure you maximise your payroll compliance.

If this is all too much trouble and you'd rather automate the process like many of our clients, you can make the shift over to cloud payroll by engaging us to help you to transition from a manual to a cloud system seamlessly.

Here’s how cloud payroll works:

    1. Time and Attendance
      Employees clock their time using an integrated time and attendance system that syncs all data with your cloud payroll software
    2. Live Timesheet Approval
      No more manually entries or paper timesheet approvals. Supervisors and managers approve time and attendance on the go directly on the cloud payroll software.
    3. Automated Modern Awards Compliance
      A collection of “rules” based on the Legal Services Award are implemented into your cloud payroll software that automatically calculate pay conditions (penalties, allowances, shift work, and more).
    4. Automated Payslips
      Payslips are automatically generated that comply with the Legal Services Award

Payroll Complete In Under an Hour
Never get it wrong. No back pay calculations. No inefficient manual interpretation. No data re-entry. Stress free pay days that take less than an hour to complete!

We also offer an automated time and attendance solution called NoahFace which captures the start and end of shift times using an iPad or the NoahFace Go phone app. The data is synchronised with your payroll system, making payroll a breeze and compliance guaranteed!

If you’re interested in moving from a manual payroll system to an automated cloud payroll system, get in touch with us today for a free demo.