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The study was conducted by the Workplace Research Centre, University of Sydney in collaboration with fieldwork company ORC International on behalf of the Fair Work Commission. It explores findings from the Award Reliance Survey (comprising a computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) and an online survey) with around 11 500 non-public sector national system employers conducted from January to April 2013. Data were collected on the size, structure and characteristics of these organisations, the nature of employment arrangements within these organisations as well as information on bargaining activity within them. The approach of undertaking the survey at the enterprise level was important given the lack of firm level data available by pay-setting arrangement.

The study aimed to identify the incidence of award reliance across surveyed organisations and their employees. It found that around 25 per cent of organisations were award reliant (in which at least one employee has their pay set at the specified award rate) and a further 27 per cent of organisations were ‘award-based’ in which they used other pay-setting arrangements where an award is used in some way to guide the pay-setting decision.

The research also aimed to identify the nature of award reliance—the mix or ‘categories’ of award-reliant employees and, where possible, their location on award classification scales—across these award-reliant organisations. A particular focus of the research was to identify professionals and other employees on higher award classifications whose pay is set at the specified award rate.

The study also examined wage-setting practices of employers and reasons why employees were paid award rates. The most common reasons given by organisations for award reliance were that: award rates were appropriate or fair remuneration; and affordability. The most common reasons that award-reliant organisations set wages over the applicable award rate for some employees was that they wanted to reward employees with higher wages and that the applicable award rates were not competitive for attracting and retaining workers in the industry/sector.

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