Indexation to be applied to NAVA's Payment Standards

The first annual increase to the Payment Standards in NAVA’s Code will be implemented on 1 July 2024.

Next month, the Payment Standards in NAVA’s Code of Practice for Visual Arts, Craft, and Design (the Code) will be indexed for the first time since the revised Code was published in September 2022.

The Payment Standards section provides a recommended benchmark for fees and wages, guiding negotiations between artists, arts workers, and organisations. These standards include recommended conditions such as superannuation, taxation, and other allowances, ensuring equitable compensation within the industry.

NAVA announced last year that Payment Standards would increase based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). However, the indexation rate will be adjusted to 2.375%, a midpoint between the 1% minimum percentage increase from the federal government for multi-year contracts applied through Creative Australia and the 3.75% applied to minimum and award wages by the Fair Work Commission. 

Fair Work Commission's Annual Wage Review

The timing of this update aligns with the Fair Work Commission’s annual review of the minimum wage. The Commission reassesses minimum wages in modern awards, transitional instruments, and the National Minimum Wage to ensure they reflect the current economic landscape and cost of living. 

From 1 July 2024, the National Minimum Wage will increase to $24.10 per hour, with casual workers receiving a 25% casual loading. The Fair Work Commission considers this change consistent with the forecast return of the inflation rate to below 3% in 2025.

Addressing criticism and ensuring compliance

NAVA faced some criticism last year when the Code was updated with the National Minimum Wage increase. The Fair Work Act mandates an annual review of minimum wages, ensuring no award/agreement-free employee earns less than the National Minimum Wage (Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) ss 294(2)). NAVA’s Code must comply with the National Minimum Wage set by the Fair Work Commission for employees not covered by an award or enterprise agreement.

Upcoming changes in superannuation

The May 2024 Federal Budget confirmed that the Super Guarantee will increase to 11.5% from 1 July 2024, and to 12% from 1 July 2025. The government has emphasised the importance of wage increases keeping pace with inflation to maintain living standards amid the ongoing cost of living crisis.

NAVA's upcoming increase in Payment Standards is essential to ensure equitable pay for visual artists, craft practitioners, and designers. By aligning these standards with broader economic trends and regulatory requirements, NAVA aims to support the financial stability of artists and arts workers. The integration of these updates with the Fair Work Commission's annual wage review and superannuation adjustments affirms NAVA’s commitment to improving fundamental conditions of work and practice.

Earlier this year, NAVA advocated that a Visual Arts Award be established as part of the Fair Work Commission’s Modern Awards Review 2023-2024. This would create a legal framework for indexing pay rates for artists and arts workers consistent with those in other industries. The Modern Awards Review 2023-2024 final report is expected to be published on or about 28 June 2024.

NAVA acknowledges that a 2.375% increase to the recommended good practice payment rates set by the Code, while a step forward, is inadequate given current economic pressures. Artists' incomes have plateaued and this increase does not sufficiently address the financial challenges faced by many in the industry. Yet public policy and investment has not kept pace with the growth and diversification of the sector. Indexation is inconsistently applied to multi-year funding arrangements. While Creative Australia applied a 1% increase for multi-year contracts this year, some state funding bodies apply a higher rate, but most don’t apply indexation at all. As Alison Croggon pointed out in The Monthly, 'arts funding, crucially, is unindexed. In real terms, taking into account 39.9% inflation, total [Creative Australia] funding has declined by 11.4% since 2010. Recognising the strained funding environment, NAVA advocates for more robust support mechanisms to ensure fair compensation for artists and arts workers. 

As we head toward an upcoming federal election and the next iteration of Revive, it is more essential than ever to advocate for financial investment that keeps up with inflation and reflects the value of the visual arts sector’s contributions to society.

Other upcoming changes to the Code

In December 2023 the Sex Discrimination Act (1984) was updated to include the positive duty for all organisations and businesses to eliminate (as far as possible) certain unlawful behaviours in the workplace. The Gender Equity section of the Code will be updated to reflect this and provide links to relevant resources.

Additionally, eight new Auslan videos will be uploaded to the Code website in Principles, Ethics and Rights, Exhibiting, Selling, Residencies and Studios, and Education and Workshops.

Image credit

Workshop participant looks at the Payment Rates section of the Code website at 'Understanding Artist Fees and Wages', Glasshouse - Art Lab, Port Macquarie, 20 January 2024. Photo by James Lander.

[ID: Photo of someone looking down at an iPad screen displaying the Arts Organisation Table in the How to Use Payment Standards webpage of the Code of Practice. In the background is another tablet screen and sheet of paper, both out of focus.]