What is the Superannuation Guarantee?

Award superannuation was introduced in 1986 as part of a National Wage Case in an attempt to broaden superannuation savings to the wider working population. It is now a feature of the majority of Federal Awards and a large number of State Awards.

Award superannuation challenged the notion that superannuation was a benefit only for the privileged few. The superannuation guarantee, which was applied from July 1, 1992, built on this foundation, spread superannuation to most working Australians - even to those not covered by Awards.

While there are no employers exempt from paying the superannuation guarantee (SG) as it applies to most of their full-time, part-time and casual employees, there are a number of employees an employer is not required to provide superannuation for, e.g., very high or very low income earners or some casual employees.

While all employers have an obligation under the SG legislation to pay these superannuation contributions, this does not override any other obligation required by Federal or State Awards, industrial agreements or employer contracts.

If an employer makes superannuation contributions under an Award and the Award fund is a complying fund, these contributions count towards meeting their SG obligations. But as the SG is now at 9.5% of each employee's earnings base, employers should ensure that no gap exists between the Award requirements and that for superannuation guarantee purposes, because penalties may apply.

Under the SG the employer must also choose between making these payments to a complying superannuation fund, MySuper product or Retirement Savings Account chosen by the employee under their choice of super fund rights. If they don't they might find themselves paying the Superannuation Guarantee Charge (including prescribed late payment penalties to the Australian Taxation Office).

Where employers followed these obligations they are able to claim a tax deduction up to the limits allowed by the ATO. Should contribution payments not be paid by the due date and as a result, the SG Charge becomes payable then no tax deduction will be allowed.

The ATO has issued a number of specific rulings and determinations as guidance in determining an employer's obligations, who qualifies as an employee for superannuation purposes, including the status of contractors.

Awards usually specify when contributions are due, while the government also requires SG contributions to be paid quarterly.

The table below provides a brief overview of the differences between Awards and the superannuation guarantee.

This outline is provided by way of information. If you are unsure of your obligations or require specific advice, consult your financial adviser, consultant, your union or professional association or your super fund.


This table summarises the different requirements of Awards and the superannuation guarantee. This table is of a general nature only and does not purport to cover every circumstance. Please contact your advisory consultant if you need more specific information.

What are the differences between award and superannuation guarantee requirements?
This table summarises the different requirements of Awards and the Superannuation Guarantee. This table is of a general nature only and does not purport to cover every circumstance. Please contact your advisory consultant if you need more specific information.
Question Award Superannuation Guarantee
Which superannuation fund do I contribute to? The fund or MySuper product is normally specified in the Award but you may be allowed to pick another fund or product. Any complying fund.
What qualifying period exists? It depends on the Award. Some Awards may include a qualifying period, e.g., employees may have to work three months before they are entitled to superannuation. Qualifying period is not determined by length of service but by wages paid. An entitlement is calculated from commencement of employment. An employee qualifies if $450 or more is paid in a calendar month.
Are part-time and casual employees excluded? Awards may exclude part-time and casual employees. No specific exclusions, but wage level qualifications must be met before superannuation guarantee is due.
How are junior employees treated? Generally no different to other employees, but some exemptions as a result of age may apply. A junior may be exempt if under 18 years of age and working not more than 30 hours per week.
How frequently are contributions paid? Varies, but monthly is common. At least quarterly.
Can employees choose not to receive superannuation? In some cases an employee can choose not to participate. Employers remain bound by relevant Award provisions. Depends upon age, if employee is beyond normal retirement age and hours worked each month.

 A beginner's guide to self-managed superHow your superannuation is taxed 

Further Reading