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Legal Essentials For Business


Find out the common laws your new business may need to comply with, such as registrations, contracts, marketing and employment.

When you start a business, you need to understand what laws apply to your new business. Consult a legal expert or business adviser to understand which laws you will need to follow.

Business registrations

If you conduct a business, you may need to comply with tax obligations. These could require you to register for:

  • Australian business number (ABN)

  • goods and Services Tax (GST)

  • tax file number (TFN)

  • pay as you go (PAYG) withholding.

Other registrations that are optional include:

  • Business name – if you want to trade under a particular name, you may need to register it.

  • Trade marks - if you want exclusive rights to a business name, you need to register a trade mark.

  • Website domains - if you set up a website, you need to register a domain name.

Fair trading

Fair trading laws ensure your business operates fairly and competitively. These laws also ensure that you inform and protect your customers.

To make sure your business meets fair trading regulations, you need to consider:

  • Fair trading laws

  • Australian Consumer Law and your business

  • Competition and Consumer Act

  • Australian standards

  • Codes of Conduct.

When you sell products or services, you need to understand:

  • Australia's trade measurement laws

  • displaying prices

  • product labelling

  • secure card payments

  • warranties and refunds.


When you agree to do a job in exchange for money or some other benefit, you're probably entering a commercial contract. This contract is legally enforceable regardless of whether it is a ‘handshake deal’ or written agreement.

Make sure you understand the contract before signing.

Privacy laws

If you collect and store your customers’ personal information, you must comply with privacy laws. These laws detail how a business must handle personal information, especially as it relates to direct marketing purposes.

Use the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner checklist to help you determine whether you need to comply with the Australian Privacy Principles.

Employment laws

You have legal obligations when you employ people. Your obligations require you to:

  • pay your employees correct wages

  • abide by work health and safety (WHS) regulations and codes of practice

  • ensure you have workers’ compensation insurance for each employee

  • not act in a way that may seriously damage an employee's reputation or cause mental distress or humiliation

  • comply with any working with vulnerable people or children requirements.

Anti-bullying laws

Bullying at work occurs when a person or group of people, repeatedly behave unreasonably towards a worker and put the worker's health or safety at risk.

Harassment and bullying in the workplace has legal risks. If you employ people, be aware of the steps you can take to minimise your potential liability.

Unfair dismissal

The Small Business Fair Dismissal Code provides small businesses with a process to follow if they need to dismiss an employee. The Code applies to your business if you have less than 15 employees.


You need to comply with different legal obligations when hiring a contractor or an employee. Make sure you understand the difference between a contractor and an employee.

Franchising Code of Conduct

All franchise businesses must comply with the mandatory industry code, Franchising Code of Conduct.

Intellectual property

Your business may have intellectual property (IP) it needs to protect. Before applying for your intellectual property right, you should do a comprehensive search to make sure that it isn’t already registered.

You can register IP yourself or seek advice from legal professionals.

Importing and exporting

You must follow certain laws and permits before you import or export products. Understand your legal requirements of importing or exporting as part of your business operations.

Environmental protections

Federal, state and local governments jointly administer the environmental protection laws in Australia. As a business owner, you need to understand which laws apply to you.

Marketing compliance

You must comply with relevant regulations when marketing your products or services. These regulations ensure that you don’t mislead your customers.

These regulations include laws on:

  • advertising

  • signage

  • spam

  • pricing

  • licencing for using music in your advertising or even playing music in your business.

Terms and conditions

If your business operates digitally, you may need to include your policies on your website. The most common policies on websites include:

  • Terms and conditions

  • Privacy policy

  • Returns policy.

Terms and conditions help establish how visitors, users and customers use your website. 

As your customers may not interact with you directly before purchasing a product or service, terms and conditions may act as a contract between you and the customer.

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