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What are my legal duties and responsibilities as a business owner?

What are my legal duties and responsibilities as a business owner?

Running a business can be a minefield of constantly changing laws and regulations and being legally compliant relies on being aware of rules and regulations. Nick Xenophon & Co. Lawyers can help you with all the legal requirements that you must comply with, such as licences and registrations, contracts and leases.

There are a number of issues you will need to consider when operating your business and will vary depending on the nature of your business, your business structure and which state you operate in, to name a few.

We have outlined some of the major legal issues below:

Business Registrations

All business owners in Australia have to register before commencing any business activities. As well as registering a business name, there are a variety of taxes that can impact on your business that you may be required to register for. These may include:

  • An Australian Business Number (ABN)
  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST)
  • A Tax File Number (TFN)
  • Pay as you go (PAYG) withholding.

There are other registrations such as registering for a domain name or registering a trade mark that may be applicable to your business. If you are operating as a company, a different registration process applies than if you were a sole trader, partnership, or trust. Speak to one of our business legal advisors on how we can assist you.


If you operate a business, it is likely you will need certain licences to make sure you are complying with your legal obligations.

The Australian Business Licence and Information Service (ABLIS) can assist you in better understanding the licences, permits and registrations needed to run your business. You can search the ABLIS to find government licences, permits, approvals, registrations, codes of practice, standards and guidelines you need to know about to meet your compliance responsibilities.

The licence or permit you require may depend on the product or service you’re selling. You will need to find out whether there is a licensing requirement for your particular business, or you may face fines or other difficulties. Licenses and permits can vary from state to territory.

Privacy Act

A new set of privacy principles was introduced in March 2014. The principles cover how a business handles personal information, including the:

  • handling and processing of personal information
  • use of personal information for direct marketing purposes
  • disclosing of personal information to people overseas.

Privacy Act 1988 obligations can be found from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OIAC). You’ll need to be aware of your obligations under the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).

Anti-bullying laws

Bullying occurs when a person or group of people, repeatedly behave unreasonably towards a worker. The behaviour also has to be deemed a risk to the worker’s health or safety. All employers and managers have a duty of care to provide a safe and healthy workplace. This is a proactive duty to prevent any risks which may arise, including psychological dangers such as bullying.

Independent contractors

Independent contractors are self-employed and provide a service to a business.

They often negotiate their own payments and working arrangements, and have the opportunity to work for a range of clients at any given time.

Before entering into a contract, you will need to determine whether someone is classified as an independent contractor. Their status will affect their rights and obligations. It is possible for someone to be an employee for some work and an independent contractor for other work.

You also need to remember that it’s illegal to fire, or threaten to fire, an employee if they do not agree to become a contractor.

It is important to know whether you are hiring an independent contractor or an employee, so you can be sure you are complying with your legal obligations.

Unfair dismissal

Small businesses have different laws compared with larger businesses when it comes to unfair dismissal. Most small businesses (those with fewer than 15 employees) will fall under the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code.

No Obligation Free Consultation

We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss how to successfully comply with all the relevant laws and regulations which may apply to your business.

Call us now to talk about your legal duties and responsibilities as a business owner on a no obligation basis. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.