Australia is one of the world’s most exciting economies for foreign investors. Not only does the country have an impressive GDP and job market, but it boasts relationships with some of the world’s most lucrative economies, effectively allowing you to use Australia as an export hub to sell products and services to the majority of the world, including Asia and Europe.
Indeed, Australia has even forged ties with Latin America to increase trade; businesses from all four corners of the world can enter into the market and take advantage of its free trade agreements, high standards of living and well-educated talent pools to take their businesses to the next level, but the right strategy is essential if you want to succeed in your expansion.
One of the biggest challenges of taking your business into Australia is getting to grips with local business law. Whilst we always recommend working with a solicitor, we’ve put together some of the most important legal considerations when expanding into Australia in 2019.
Table of Contents
Legal Considerations in Australia – Business Law
There are several regulations that you must follow in order to remain compliant in Australia.
- Director: When incorporating a business in Australia, you should have at least one resident Australian director. If you do not, then a nominee director could be appointed to overcome the barriers to entry and allow you to set up and trade in the country.
- Licenses: Some industries and sectors require licenses and permits before you can legally operate. Be sure you work with a local business specialist who can apply for licenses on your behalf to speed up the process and ensure it’s processed correctly. In the Australian mining sector, for example, you’ll need to apply for special permits to prove that you have the expertise to launch a safe and compliant mining operation.
- Foreign Investors: As a foreign investor looking to expand your operations to Australia, you should follow the Foreign Investment Policy. In particular industries, such as mining and agriculture, special guarantees and privileges are offered to investors.
- Annual Reports: All Australian businesses are required by law to report information about shareholders, directors, company executives, and the company’s financial position in an Annual Return. Depending on the scope of your firm, this information may be made available to the public, which is something to take into consideration. In addition, you must comply with the Australian company tax system and pay on time.
- Confidentiality: Shareholder and director identities are available for anyone to view on the Australian Business Register, designed to increase business transparency and reduce the chances of corruption. In some sectors and niches, having information like your name and address readily available to the public could be compromising, so you may want to consider the benefits of a nominee director who is resident in Australia.
To protect citizens and other businesses, the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA) has a range of laws and regulations in place for businesses of all shapes and sizes, covering everything from product standards, competition, pricing regulations, trade measurement, product labeling, displaying prices, and warranties and refunds. Read up on the fair trading laws on the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science website.
You should take into account that these laws are specific to Australian states and territories, such as Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland, Northern Territory, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory, so if you’re planning to launch your business in several states, you may need to appoint state-specific legal experts.
Unlike in some countries where contracts are legally binding only when written contracts are signed by both parties, a more relaxed and informal approach is in place that mimics Australia’s business culture. When you agree to provide a service in exchange for a fee, you enter into a commercial contract that is legally enforceable – whether you write an agreement and send it to the other party, or you simply ‘shake hands’ on a deal at a networking event. Of course, we recommend putting important business deals on paper to protect yourself; if a contract was to fall through, you’d need to prove in court that an agreement was made.
When collecting and storing the personal data of your customers, you must adhere to the country’s privacy laws, which are similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Act. Ensure you keep sensitive information out of harm’s way, and follow the Australian Privacy Principles on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s website
There are several employment laws and considerations when doing business in Australia:
- Anti-bullying: Bullying in the workplace is illegal, and as a company director, it is your responsibility to ensure employees are comfortable and do not feel harassed.
- Contractors: When hiring someone on a temporary or full-time basis, you should be sure to check whether they’re an independent contractor, as there are different rules and protections that are associated with such employment.
- Dismissal: Australia published the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code, which offers guidelines to small and medium-sized businesses on how to dismiss employees legally. Employees must have worked for your organization for six months before they can claim for unfair dismissal, and procedures are in place to protect firms.
- Obligations: As an employer, you must pay employees the correct wages on time every month, reimburse them for business-related expenses, and follow the work health and safety (WHS) regulations to create a safe and comfortable environment.
- Insurance: As an Australian business owner, you must have workers’ compensation insurance for each of your employees, whether they’re temporary or full-time staff.
- Working with Children: Before being able to operate in an industry that involves children or young people, your business should have a Working With Children check.
Australian Business Law from Biz Latin Hub
The legal considerations we have raised in this article are only the tip of the iceberg, and as such, you should consider working with an Australian business law expert when considering international expansion. Indeed, depending on your niche, you may need permits or licenses before you can legally operate in the country. Navigating the market on your own can be an expensive and time-consuming process, so rely on the experts at Biz Latin Hub.
We offer a range of back-office services for businesses looking to move into Australia, such as business law, recruitment, company incorporation, and due diligence. To find out more, or to receive a quotation, contact the team today.
The information provided here within should not be construed as formal guidance or advice. Please consult a professional for your specific situation. Information provided is for informative purposes only and may not capture all pertinent laws, standards, and best practices. The regulatory landscape is continually evolving; information mentioned may be outdated and/or could undergo changes. The interpretations presented are not official. Some sections are based on the interpretations or views of relevant authorities, but we cannot ensure that these perspectives will be supported in all professional settings.