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How to make sense of your Australian pay slip

Written by

Shaun McGowan

Did you get less pay than you were expecting?

Here you are, working hard for your money…

You calculate your hourly rate and multiply it by the number of hours you’re working. That should be roughly what you’ll take home each fortnight, right? Wrong.

You probably already know that some of your pay will be withheld. But if you’re like most of us, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised when you find out just how much of that hard-earned money will never make it to your bank account.

Let’s dissect the Australian pay packet to make sense of your pay.

So go ahead and grab your latest pay slip. You’ll want to follow along.

Exploring the different elements of your pay slip

Pay period and payment date

This section is somewhat self-explanatory, but you’ll want to pay attention to a few things.

  • Your pay period shows the span of time you’re getting paid for. In most cases, this time period is in the past. Your pay period usually will end some time before your payment date (for example, you may get paid on Tuesday for a pay period that ended on the previous Friday). Different organisations handle payroll in different ways, so check with your employer if you have any questions. But typically, companies need a few business days to process payroll. So the pay period may end a few days before your actual payment date.
  • The payment date is when you’ll actually paid, usually by direct deposit into your bank account. If your employer uses a different bank, the money may not hit your account for another day or two. If you happen to be paid in advance, your pay period will end on a future date, but your payment date will still be the actual date you get paid.

Hours worked

Although extremely self-explanatory, this section is one you should check over each week if you’re an hourly employee. If you get paid for every hour you work, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting paid for the correct number of hours.

Even if you trust your employer implicitly, mistakes happen.

If you’re on salary, you may see a number of hours here, but it’s not as relevant. As a salaried employee, you’ll get paid the same amount regardless of whether you work overtime. Your employer may not even keep close track on your overtime if it’s irrelevant to your income.

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In this section, you’ll find information about your gross pay and net pay. Here’s a quick breakdown of each:

  • Gross pay – This is the total amount of your earnings before any withholdings. Also called ‘total earnings’.
  • Net pay – Net pay is the total amount you take home after all withholdings. This is the money you get to keep and deposit into your bank account.
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Annual leave

In this section, you’ll see exactly how much time you’ve accrued during the current pay period. You’ll also see a tally of any leave you’ve used.

In most cases your year-to-date balance will be shown in hours. So you’ll have to do some maths to figure out how many days you have available.

If you’re a full-time employee, you’ll get a minimum of 20 days of leave every year. This is in addition to any days you get off because of public holidays.

Your leave is accrued evenly throughout the year, so you’ll earn between one and two days per month.



Superannuation is a form of retirement fund that your employer is required to contribute to. When you were first hired, you probably chose a superannuation fund. If not, your employer would have done this for you.

On your pay slip, you’ll find the name of this chosen fund and how much went into it during this pay period. The amount is currently set at 9.5%.

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Pay As You Go tax is the portion of your pay that is reserved for the tax office every time you get paid. If you didn’t have PAYG tax withheld you’d be responsible for paying the full tax on your annual salary as a giant lump sum when you file your tax return.

And that’s not a surprise anyone wants to receive.

Keep in mind that the PAYG tax withholding is an estimate, so you may owe a bit more or get a bit back when you square up with the tax office at the end of the financial year.

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HELP (Higher Education Loan Programme)

If you’ve taken out a HELP (Higher Education Loan Programme, previously known as ‘HEX’) loan from the government and are making more than $53,345 this financial year, you’ll need to repay a percentage of your income every pay period. You’ll see the total withheld for this pay period in this section.


When you get your first pay slip it can be quite alarming.

But once you understand where all the money is going, it makes a lot more sense. In fact, most people would rather have regular tax withholdings instead of getting a big bill at tax time (not that you have much choice).

And once you file your tax return, you may even get some of your tax back if you have deductions to apply (say, if you’ve made donations to charities) which can be nice little bonus.

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About the Author

Shaun McGowan from



Shaun McGowan

Shaun is the founder of and is determined to help people pay as little as possible for financial products. Through education and building world class technology. Previously Shaun co-founded and Lend.


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