Deductions for accommodation, transport and job finding

Know when an employer can deduct money from a worker.

On this page:

Rules about deductions

There are limited situations when an employer can deduct money from an employee’s pay.

An employer can only deduct money if:

  • the employee agrees in writing and it’s principally for the employee’s benefit
  • it’s allowed by a law, a court order, or a Fair Work Commission order
  • it’s allowed under the employee’s award (for example the Horticulture Award or the Wine Industry Award), or
  • it’s allowed under the employee’s registered agreement and the employee agrees to it.

Examples of permitted deductions include:

  • salary sacrifice arrangements
  • voluntary contributions into an employee’s super fund.

Employers can’t unduly influence or pressure an employee to agree or not agree to deductions.

Other rules apply including pay slip and record keeping requirements. To find out more about deductions, go to our Deducting pay page.

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Requiring employees to spend or pay back money

There are only limited situations where an employer can require an employee to spend or pay back money. Learn more at Requirements to spend or pay back money.

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Overpayments can happen:

  • when an employer mistakenly believes an employee is entitled to the pay, or
  • because of a payroll error.

Employers can only take money out of an employee’s pay to fix up a mistake or overpayment in limited circumstances.

Learn more at Overpayments.

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Paying for accommodation and transport

Workers must be paid money for the work they do. They can’t be paid in goods or services, like transport or board.

Employees can decide to use employer-provided accommodation or transport. If the employer proposes to deduct money from an employee’s pay to cover these costs, the rules about deductions must be followed.

Example: Manuia’s rent is deducted from his pay

Manuia is in Australia and applies to work at an apple farm in Victoria.

The owner rents out rooms in a house on the farm to workers at market rates so he can make some extra money.

Manuia has a conversation with the owner and agrees to rent a room while he works at the apple farm. The agreement is not put in writing.

The owner tells Manuia he will deduct the rent from his wages.

This is unlawful. The owner can’t deduct money from Manuia's pay as there is no written agreement and it's not principally for Manuia's benefit. There is also no award or enterprise agreement which covers Manuia and allows deductions in these circumstances.

Manuia and the owner must make a separate written agreement for Manuia to pay rent.

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Job finding

Employers can’t ask job applicants to pay money to receive a job offer.

Employers also can’t ask an employee to pay money to keep their job.

Example: Hannah looks for a job on the Harvest Trail

Hannah is looking for work along the Harvest Trail.

She finds an ad on the internet looking for workers to pick strawberries on a farm in New South Wales.

The ad lists only a business name, the person’s first name and a mobile number. There is also no Australian Business Number (ABN) or Australian Company Number (ACN).

Hannah contacts the person listed in the ad and says she wants to apply for the job. The person tells her she can have the job but she must pay a bond for her accommodation before she can start work.

Hannah is suspicious and tells the person she will think about the offer.

Hannah searches the name of the farm in the Australian Business Register but can’t find a:

  • business listing
  • ABN (Australian Business Number)
  • ACN (Australian Company Number).

Hannah realises this was not a legitimate job offer and was likely a scam to get money.

Even if it was a legitimate job, it’s illegal to require Hannah to pay money before she can start work.

For workers – when looking for work, here are some warning signs that things might not be right:

  • job offers that require upfront fees or include ‘free’ accommodation
  • ads that don’t list much business information, such as only a phone number or post office box
  • jobs picking the wrong seasonal fruits or vegetables (for example, picking summer fruits in winter), and
  • job offers that guarantee a quick visa or sponsored employment in Australia.

For more tips on looking for work, go to our Working the Harvest Trail page.

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Cashback schemes

A cashback scheme is when an employer pays an employee the correct pay rate but then makes the employee give back some of the money.

It looks like the employee has been paid correctly but because the employee had to give back some of the money they have been underpaid.

Cashback schemes are against the law.

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Getting help

For workers: to ask for our help to sort out issues about deductions, cashback schemes or if an employer asks for money to receive a job offer, go to Getting help.

You can also send us an anonymous tip-off in English or in your language.

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