A letter from Nicolette Di Lernia 

Over the past few months, the SA Chapter has been approached by some members regarding behaviour they have experienced in the workplace. While I am very aware that we are only hearing one side of the story, I am concerned about the picture that is emerging.  

It reveals a culture within some practices that has normalised working significant unpaid overtime, is not responding effectively to workplace disputes and bullying, and is managing redundancies and resignations poorly.  Young women within the profession are appearing to be impacted more frequently by these behaviours.

None of these issues are new to the architecture profession.  What has changed since I started in practice in the early 1990s is the introduction of the Architects Award in 2010.  Last updated in 2020, it clearly states the minimum conditions for architects, graduates of architecture and students of architecture employed by architectural practices.


Key clauses relating to the issues being raised include:

  • Part 3 – Hours of work:
  • Part 4 – Minimum Wages and Related Matters
  • Part 5 – Overtime
  • Part 7 – Consultation and Dispute Resolution
  • Part 8 – Termination of Employment and Redundancy

In summary these clauses set the maximum number of hours per week at 38, with any overtime to be paid at 150% of the employee’s hourly rate.  Time off in lieu can be offered instead of payment, but if it is not taken within 6 months the employer is required to pay the employee for the overtime worked.  The employee can also request payment even if they originally agreed to TOIL.  An employee is also entitled to be compensated for any unpaid overtime if they are made redundant.

 The National Employment Standards (NES) and the Architects Award 2020 contain the minimum conditions of employment for employees covered by this award.  Individual flexible arrangements can be made to vary the terms of the Award but must be genuinely meet the needs of the employee and the employer.  It is also stipulated by Fair Work Australia that employment contracts cannot reduce or remove these minimum entitlements. 

Workplace culture and compliance with Australian workplace law is a significant issue for the profession.  On one hand the current culture within some practices is fuelling burn out and high levels of staff movement.  It is also resulting in architects leaving the profession, with the total number of registered architects in South Australia lower that it was 10 years ago.

From an employer perspective, the relentlessly competitive marketplace within which architectural practices operate is driving lower fees.  This makes meeting minimum employment conditions increasingly difficult.  However, practices who undercharge for their services are still required to meet their legal obligations under the Fair Work Act and the Architects Registration Act. 

So, what is the SA Chapter doing about this situation?  At a personal level, we are always available if you need to speak to someone.  We might not always have the answers, but we can provide a sounding board and suggest external organisations that can provide expert advice.

On a collective level we are planning CPD that will provide information regarding the Architects Award and how it works in practice.  This will be considered from an employer and an employee perspective.

Please reach out if you have any concerns, or call us on (08) 8402 5900

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