Legal Essentials for New Businesses in Australia

Legal Essentials for New Businesses in Australia

Embarking on business operations in Australia? Here’s your essential roadmap: from selecting the right business structure to navigating industry-specific regulations, we’ve got what you want.


Step 1: decide your business structure

Choosing the right business structure is crucial as it impacts your legal obligations, tax liabilities, and personal liability. Common business structures in Australia include:

Sole Trader: the simplest structure with full control over the business, but personal assets are at risk in case of business debts or legal liabilities.

Partnership: suitable for shared responsibility and resources, fostering collaboration and shared decision-making among partners.

Company: popular for its limited liability protection, separating personal assets from business debts.

Trust: offers flexibility in distributing profits and assets among beneficiaries with potential tax advantages and asset protection.


Step 2: register your company

If you opt for a company structure, you’ll need to register your business with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). This involves selecting a company name, appointing directors and shareholders, and obtaining an Australian Business Number (ABN) and Tax File Number (TFN).


Step 3: choose the appropriate lease agreement

Selecting the right lease agreement is critical for your business’s success. Here’s a brief overview of common lease categories related to operating a business:

Commercial Lease:

Best for businesses requiring office space, professional services, or general commercial activities.

It offers flexibility in lease terms and customization of premises but may involve higher rent costs compared to other leases.

Retail Lease:

Ideal for businesses operating in retail environments such as shops, restaurants, or cafes.

It provides provisions for signage and fit-out and it’s usually governed by specific state-based retail lease legislations which give greater protection to lessees.

Industrial Lease:

Geared towards businesses needing warehouse or manufacturing facilities.

It addresses specific needs such as access for heavy vehicles and environmental compliance but may involve longer lease terms and higher maintenance costs.


Step 4: hire your employees

Employing staff in Australia is subject to various legislative requirements, including the Fair Work Act, Fair Work Ombudsman and National Employment Standards. Key considerations include:

Employment contracts: ensure contracts comply with minimum employment standards and include essential terms such as wages, hours of work, and leave entitlements.

Award coverage: determine which industry award applies to your employees and ensure compliance with relevant wage rates and conditions.

Workplace health and safety: implement policies and procedures to maintain a safe work environment and comply with WHS obligations.


Step 5: note the additional regulations in certain industries

Lastly, don’t forget to consider additional regulatory requirements in your industry! For example:

Healthcare: compliance with the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, accreditation standards, and privacy laws.

Education: compliance with the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act, registration as a CRICOS provider for international students, and compliance with quality assurance standards.

Financial Services: licensing and regulation by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act.


Now, armed with these legal essentials, your new business venture in Australia is ready to get going!


This article does not give legal advice. It is intended to provide general information in summary form on legal topics, current at the time of first publication, for general information purposes only. The contents do not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular matters.

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