Journalists’ award updated: digital staff entitled to penalty rates and overtime

Changes to the journalism award take effect today, with digital journalists now entitled to the same conditions as their print counterparts, including minimum wages, penalty rates, and overtime.

In November 2019, the Fair Work Commission handed down the landmark decision, agreeing with the journalists’ union that the award should extend to reporters working for digital-only titles such as Guardian Australia, Junkee,, Daily Mail, Crikey, Pedestrian, and

Until now, only reporters working for print mastheads, or across both print and digital, have been protected under the award, which covers both news titles and magazines. The change has taken more than a year to come into effect.

“March 1 is a landmark day for all journalists across Australia. The inclusion of journalists working in digital media outlets to the award means they will be able to have the same conditions as their print colleagues,” the union’s media section director, Adam Portelli, said.

“It removes an anomaly where journalists working in digital media were doing the same job but with less pay and fewer entitlements.

“The media industry and the journalism profession have been thoroughly transformed by digital technology. Up until now, the award had not kept pace with this transformation into how media outlets operate and the editorial content that their journalists produce.”

The Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance (MEAA) added that in addition to minimum wages, penalty rates, and overtime, all journalists will now also be entitled to “other conditions of employment such as hours of work and breaks”.

“Importantly for these workers, the changes will provide a solid foundation on which to build better conditions for digital journalists through collective bargaining in the future,” Portelli said.

Six years ago, the MEAA raised the argument with the Commission, noting that the award excluded online-only publications, meant employees of country non-daily newspapers weren’t entitled to weekend penalty rates, excluded ‘specialist publications’, and excluded certain positions.

As part of the case, Daily Mail Australia, Nine (which owns online titles Pedestrian,, and The Brisbane Times) and Australian Community Media’s holding company opposed the union’s position. The Daily Mail confirmed it would be negatively impacted by the changes, requiring changes to rostering, hiring specialist personnel to help implement the changes, and introducing a time and attendance system.

Mumbrella has contacted Daily Mail Australia, Nine, Urban List, Junkee, Broadsheet, Time Out, and Private Media for comment on the new award taking effect.

Private Media’s CEO, Will Hayward, told Mumbrella: “Our minimum standards were updated in 2019 as a result of a new EBA [enterprise bargaining agreement, an instrument which replaces an award], including provisions around penalty rates and overtime. We have a time in lieu policy and an anti-social hours clause, all of which have been in place since then.”

Urban List declined to comment while Time Out confirmed: “we have and are conforming with all awards relevant to our staff, including penalty rates and overtime, and will do so in line with any changes in the future”.

A Nine spokesperson said the media business “of course complies with the law and all aspects of employer and remuneration obligations, including overtime, penalties and company-wide benefits. We respect the Award and appreciate the dedication and hard work our teams put in.”

Pedestrian’s CEO Matt Rowley gave evidence to the Commission during the case that, should the award apply to the group’s journalists, he would have to determine whether the changes were financially sustainable, and if hours needed to be cut or outsourced.

In its ruling, the Commission said it was evident that “work on early morning, afternoon, night and weekend shifts, and at unsocial hours generally, is an entrenched and fundamental feature of the employment of journalists at online-only publications, so that the consequences of their exclusion from [the award] entitlements identified above are real and not merely hypothetical”.


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