If you are thinking of starting a business in Australia, it is important to understand the various legal requirements you will be subject to. There are a wide variety of regulations and laws that you must comply with, and the legislative bodies that govern these have made it clear that ignorance is not an excuse for failure to comply. In this article, we discuss the most important legal requirements for businesses in Australia. We will also provide some tips on how to stay compliant with the law.
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Some of the Most Common Legal Requirements for a Business in Australia
NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list and only highlights some of the most common legal requirements for businesses in Australia. Seek professional legal guidance when setting up your business or seeking to ensure your existing business is compliant with all legal requirements.
Anyone who wants to run a business in Australia needs to comply with some specific registration requirements, which differ depending on the type of business you will be operating.
Depending on your situation, you will need to register:
- Your business name
- For taxes (including GST, TFN, PAYG withholding, and ABN)
- For various licences and permits
- Your company (companies are subject to different laws and must be registered as legal entities)
- Any trademarks you own
- A domain name for your website
- An Australian business number (ABN)
You can find out what registrations your business needs on the business.gov.au website.
Fair Trading Laws
One of the most important legal requirements for businesses in Australia is to comply with fair trading laws. These laws are designed to protect consumers from unfair or misleading practices. If you engage in any conduct that is deemed to be unfair or misleading, you could face legal action. This includes making false or misleading claims about your products or services.
Another crucial legal requirement for businesses in Australia is to have contracts in place. This includes contracts with your employees, contractors, suppliers, and customers. The contract should set out the terms and conditions of the agreement, and it should be signed by both parties. It is also a good idea to have a lawyer review any contract before either party sign it.
Privacy laws are another vital aspect of the legislature to be familiar with as a business owner in Australia. These laws are designed to protect the personal information of individuals. If you collect, use, or disclose personal information, you must comply with the Privacy Act 1988. This includes ensuring that you have a valid reason for collecting any information, and that you take steps to safeguard it from cyberattacks.
If you employ staff in Australia, you must comply with employment laws, including:
- Paying your employees the correct wages
- Making sure to abide by work health and safety requirements
- Having workers’ compensation insurance for each employee
- Not acting in a way that could damage an employee’s reputation or cause mental distress
- Adhering to any working with vulnerable people or children requirements
This includes providing full and part-time employees with a written contract of employment (although it is still recommended to also provide casual employees with a contract).
In Australia, there are also laws that protect employees from bullying. If you allow bullying to take place in your workplace, you could be held liable. This includes if you knew about the bullying and did nothing to stop it. You can find out more about anti-bullying laws on the Fair Work Commission website.
If you employ staff in Australia, you must also comply with unfair dismissal laws. This means that you can only dismiss an employee for a valid reason, such as misconduct or poor performance. If you dismiss an employee without a valid reason, they may be able to take legal action against you, which can be an arduous and expensive process.
If you engage contractors to work for your business, you must also comply with certain legal requirements. This includes ensuring that they are properly licensed and insured. You should also have a written contract in place that sets out the terms of the agreement. Make sure you understand the difference between an employee and a contractor.
The franchise code of conduct
If your business is a franchise or you plan on starting a franchise, you must abide by the Franchising Code of Conduct.
If you have any intellectual property, such as a trademark or copyright, you must also comply with the relevant laws. This includes registering your intellectual property with the relevant authorities. Failure to do so could result in legal action being taken against you.
Importing and Exporting
This includes ensuring that you have a valid licence to do so. You must also declare all goods that you are importing or exporting to the relevant authorities.
Environmental protection laws ensure that businesses take steps to minimise your environmental impact. Failure to do so could result in legal action being taken against you by relevant environmental protection agencies.
If you engage in any form of marketing, you must also comply with the relevant laws. This includes ensuring that all claims made in your marketing material are accurate and can be substantiated. You must also ensure that your marketing material does not contain any misleading or deceptive content.
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We Can Help You with the Legislative Requirements for Your Business
Remember— these are just some of the legal considerations businesses must address when operating in Australia. To keep your business safe from legal trouble, your best bet is to work with professionals.
Business Legal Lifecycle is the only legaltech website that keeps you fully informed on what you need to do to reduce your legal risk, empowering you with the knowledge to work with your lawyer and have the confidence to run a successful business.
Take a look at our Legal Risk Assessment , Jeremy Streten’s amazon best selling book The Business Legal Lifecycle (in Australia, United Kingdom and United States), and our Educational Courses.