How to Accurately Read Your Payslip

So you’re working, earning a living, and getting a pay cheque every fortnight. Great job. But before blowing your entire pay cheque the day you get it (have our budgeting tips taught you nothing?!), it’s worth knowing exactly what everything on your payslip means.

By law, your employer must provide you with a pay slip each time you’re paid. Here’s what you should see on it.

The pay period and payment date

As you’ll have guessed, this is the period for which you’re being paid and the date you were paid on. It’s worth paying attention to. Although most companies pay in arrears (only for the days you’ve already worked), some pay full-time employees in advance for work they will complete in the future.

For example, say you’re paid fortnightly and your company pays a combination of arrears and advance. You would be paid for one week of work already completed, plus work you will complete over the next week. So, check your payment period and the payment date carefully.

Hours worked

For casual employees or contractors, it’s important to check this section to ensure you’re being paid for what you’ve done. For full-time or part-time employees, this will correspond to your ordinary (contracted) hours, generally between 37.5 – 40 hours a week for full-timers, and won’t include those extra hours you logged staying back late every night.

Total earnings or gross pay

This is what you earn before tax. It’s always worth checking this to confirm you’re being paid the agreed amount. And while it’s fun to look at the because it’s the biggest number on there, it’s also a bit depressing because it’s not what’s going into your pocket.

Net pay

This is how much you actually take home after tax and any other deductions, including HELP payments. How much tax you have to pay is based on your income, and you can view the different tax rates on the ATO’s website.


“To make sure you’re getting taxed the right amount each time you get paid or just to dream about what a pay rise would mean to your bank balance, check out”



Pay As You Go Tax is money withheld by the tax office each time you get paid, based on an estimate of how much you’ll earn this financial year. For people earning a salary with little to no other income, this hopefully means your tax liability is covered by the time you do your return. Otherwise, if you’ve paid too much tax you’ll get a nice little sum at the end of the financial year, but if you haven’t paid you’ll owe the tax office money.


If you have a HELP debt (previously HECs) and are earning over $54,869 this financial year, you’re required to pay a percentage of your salary back to the government to pay off that loan. The repayment rates start at four per cent of salary and increase depending on your income bracket. Check where you sit here.


“YTD stands for Year To Date and is a running total of your pay since the beginning of the financial year. Each row of wages, annual leave, tax, HELP and super should all have a YTD column.”



Currently sitting at 9.5 per cent, super is a compulsory way to save for retirement, which means your employer must pay it. When starting a job, you should have nominated a superannuation fund to stash your money away. If you didn’t, your employer will have chosen one for you. Your pay slip should state the name of your fund and how much was put into it this pay cycle.

Annual leave

For full-time or part-time employees, your annual leave balance will show how much leave you’ve used and how much you’ve accrued during the pay period, as well as your YTD balance. This is usually stated in hours, which means you’ll have to do a quick calculation to work out how long to book those flights for.

For example, if you’re contracted for a 40-hour work week, divide the number of hours you’ve accrued by eight to find out how many days there are available. In Australia, full-time employees receive at least 20 days of annual leave a year (plus public holidays), which means leave generally accrues at around 1.67 days per month.

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