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The law and your business

By CCIWA Editor 

There is an enormous breadth and depth of laws that businesses need to comply with that protect your business, customers, staff, suppliers and competitors.  

Fortunately, information provided by CCIWA and the Federal and State governments can help businesses to navigate the sea of requirements. 

This article provides a snapshot of where to find information about some high-level areas of business law.  

Which structure? 

Choosing the right structure for your business can have implications on your level of personal liability, the amount of tax you pay and whether or not your personal assets are protected from litigation. Seek advice from your accountant. 

Corporations law 

If youre an officeholder of a company, you must comply with requirements in the Corporations Act 2001. Officeholders are ultimately responsible for a companys adherence to the Corporations Act. For more information about the law and your company, visit the Australian Securities and Investments Commission website. 

Contract law  

Whether you’re creating a contract or signing one, it’s essential to put the time and effort into understanding and managing all aspects of the contract and the relationship it will create.  

Fair trading 

Your business and customers are protected from unfair trading practices by Australian federal and state laws, Australian standards and codes of practice (voluntary and mandatory).   

Franchising  

All parties involved in a franchise arrangement in Australia are legally required to comply with the Franchising Code of Conduct, which sits within the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. The code regulates the conduct between all franchising participants in Australia.   

HR  

As a business owner, it’s vital to have a working understanding of your employment obligations and how you should address them. CCI provides members with advice about various areas of employment 

Industrial relations systems  

Employees of WA businesses are covered by either a state or national industrial system. Each system has different employment rights, obligations, pay levels and minimum wage levels.  

Sole traders, unincorporated partnerships and some trusts come under the state system while the national system applies to incorporated businesses – those with ‘Pty Ltd’ or ‘Ltd’ in their name. 

Unfortunately, it’s not always so cut and dry. 

Most CCI membership packages offer free advice through the Employee Relations Advice Centre on awards, minimum wages, leave entitlements, employment conditions, unfair dismissal, redundancy and terminations. 

Employee records 

There are different requirements under each system to keep employee records, such as timesheets, payslips and pay summaries, tax file declarations and superannuation payments.  

Equal opportunities  

It’s unlawful to discriminate again people based on a wide range of factors, including their gender, age, marital status, religion, race, impairment, pregnancy and family status. For details about your equal opportunity obligations, visit the Equal Opportunity Commission website. 

Most CCI membership packages offer free advice on equal opportunity through the Employee Relations Advice Centre.  

Occupational Safety and Health  

Business owners are responsible for ensuring their employees’ workplace is safe – not just for staff, but also customers.  

There are legal repercussions for failure to meet Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) obligations. The principal OHS law in WA is the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, supported by the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996. 

WorkSafe WA is responsible for responsible for the administration of the Act in WA. 

Most members of CCI can receive free telephone advice on OHS and workers’ compensation issues, as well as discounted professional OHS consultancy, customised training courses and business briefings.  

Injury management 

Businesses are legally obliged to create an effective system that documents the steps to be taken if an injury occurs in the workplace. Penalties can apply for failure to meet create an injury management system. 

CCI can help with policies and WorkCover WA provides information and templates. 

Workers’ compensation insurance  

Business owners are legally required to have workers’ compensation insurance for all staff (including family members) and contractors.  

For detailed information about requirements to provide workers’ compensation insurance, visit the WorkCover WA website. 

Intellectual property  

Protecting your intellectual property is important if you want a monopoly on commercialising that idea. It’s worth investing in a patent lawyer to help you choose the right IP protection and ensure you don’t make any irreversible errors in the paperwork.  

Leasing premises 

Most retail shop leases in Western Australia must comply with the Commercial Tenancy (Retail Shops) Agreements Act 1985. If you intend to lease a commercial tenancy, it’s important the lease agreement is transparent and fair, as required by the Act. 

For more information about the Commercial Tenancy Act, please visit the Small Business Development Corporation’s website. 

Privacy laws 

If your business collects private information about people, you need to understand your responsibilities under the Privacy Act 1988. Under the Act, you are legally responsible for managing other people’s private information responsibly and transparently. 

For example, you need processes to keep certain information private. And if the information is shared within your business, it can only be used for the purpose for which the information was collected. If you share the information internally for any reason (sales leads, for example), you first need to make sure you have the authority to do so. 

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner provides legally binding guidelines and rules for organisations about information privacy. 

Shareholders agreement 

To avoid any possible legal wrangling between fellow company shareholders in the future, it’s highly advisable to have a written agreement to specify rights, responsibilities, obligations and liabilities of all those with a vested interest in the organisation 

It’s best to consult with a lawyer to draw up a shareholders’ agreement, which should align with arrangements in the company constitution and be negotiated with all shareholders 

There is an enormous breadth and depth of laws that businesses need to comply with that protect your business, customers, staff, suppliers and competitors.  

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