Legislative developments are some of the most difficult to keep up with.
If you’re not paying close attention to changes in regulations, it’s easy to miss important legislative updates that have real implications for your business.
But running a business is no easy feat and finding time in your already packed calendar for staying up-to-date with legislation isn’t always easy. This is especially true for smaller companies, which often have mostly operational employees.
Building lean systems makes it possible to seamlessly and systematically manage legislation without cutting corners – and without feeling completely overwhelmed.
How to stay on top of legislative updates
Legislation makes it mandatory for employers to uphold certain standards in their workplace.
While some businesses find they have the resources to hire someone internally to manage changes in legislation or do it themselves, others find it’s easier and more realistic to outsource assistance from an external expert.
Over the years changes in legislation have helped to keep employees safer, minimise the environmental impact businesses make, ensure staff are paid a suitable rate and more.
Legislative updates continue to shape the business landscape. Now, strategies for staying compliant need to be modern and effective, so you can easily hone in on which changes will impact your business.
This puts you in the best possible position to pinpoint what needs to be done with certainty. With a clear process you are also able to avoid overwhelm – and save time in the process.
Here are a few practical techniques for keeping up with regulatory changes.
1. Stay informed
Regulatory changes happen often and if there is a big update on the way, your business will benefit from knowing as soon as possible.
Subscribing to blogs and newsletters ensures you stay in the loop and can also be helpful reminders to regularly review your legislative compliance. For instance, subscribing to the newsletters of specialist law firms that are involved in legislative changes impacting your business. If you’re looking for news and analysis regarding workplace safety, OHS Alert is one helpful resource to check out.
While some businesses turn to news and media outlets for legislative updates, it can also be a good idea to go straight to the source. Monitoring websites of the governing agencies and regulatory bodies can provide you with the specifics of different changes, such as deadlines, and helps avoid nuances being lost along the way.
These suggestions are relatively low effort and only take a few minutes – but they can make a big difference.
2. Attend conferences
Attending conferences and webinars has become more convenient than ever, with many now being offered online. If you are unable to attend, there is also often the option to watch a recording of the event at a time that suits you.
At conferences and webinars attendees can get information straight from industry experts. In addition to hearing about which changes are on the way, you may also be provided with helpful tips for implementing regulatory changes.
Hearing outside perspectives from experts in the area can also prompt you to reassess how your current approach to managing legislative updates is working and where improvements could be made.
In some cases you will have the chance to ask questions you have about changes and the impact they will have on your business in real time. Other attendees might ask questions as well – some that you might not have considered before – helping you expand on your understanding even more.
The Victorian Government Solicitor’s Office (VGSO) is one example of an institution that runs free monthly seminars featuring experienced speakers who often cover topics surrounding OHS.
3. Review current processes
Once you’re made aware of legislative updates, the next step is to determine how your current systems need to be adjusted to accommodate these changes. This is done through the completion of a legislative compliance audit.
Legislative compliance audits identify any gaps between existing processes and the requirements of legislation. From this, organisations can develop a targeted plan for addressing downfalls and improving compliance.
Completing a legislative compliance audit ahead of changes coming into action gives your business the opportunity to pinpoint any potential risks of a breach before the legislation is officially introduced. Because of this, you have plenty of time to focus on gaps and devise a strong plan for making any necessary changes – which includes information like who will be responsible for managing changes, specific goals and deadlines – so issues can be proactively resolved before they become a serious problem.
After implementing their plan, organisations need to regularly monitor progress to ensure they continue to meet the requirements of legislation and avoid becoming complacent over time.
4. Use compliance software
78% of users reported improvements in productivity after adopting cloud services.
With compliance software businesses can automate workflow, which eliminates inefficiencies and clunky procedures. Because of this, processes become more fast and accurate and there is no duplication across documentation. Employees spend less time on repetitive administrative tasks and more time on meaningful work that moves the company forward.
When information is stored in the cloud, your organisation can also enjoy greater flexibility and agility than with rigid paper-based systems. System-wide updates can be implemented quickly and effectively as legislation changes, so you and your employees can avoid getting bogged down in paperwork.
If employees need to check any information relating to legislation, whether they’re in the office, working from home or at a worksite, they can easily access the data or documentation needed when it’s stored in the cloud.
Recent legislative updates
1. Health and safety legislation
Many Australian states are in the process of strengthening their workplace safety laws with new reforms to expand worker rights and protections.
This includes the new WHS laws that are coming into effect in Western Australia. These changes will become operational on 31 March 2022. They will mostly impact those in the mining and resources sector, and will also apply to subcontractors and gig economy workers. The introduction of industrial manslaughter laws is a key change. Other changes include insurance no longer covering penalties and officers needing to exercise due diligence and ensuring WHS is at the top of the business’ hierarchy.
One aspect of this is that labour hire workers will have the same right for safety precautions as other workers and “host” employers will have the same duties to them as they do their own staff. To achieve this, labour hire providers and host employers must consult and cooperate. Any breach of the legislation is punishable by fines of up to $32,713 for individuals and $163,566 for businesses
The Respect at Work amendments added to the existing Fair Work provisions surrounding bullying at work to now include orders to stop sexual harassment. Since 11 November 2021, eligible workers have been able to make an application related to being sexually harassed at work.
2. Environmental legislation
In February 2022 the Environmental Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 was passed by both houses of the NSW parliament. It was assented shortly after this on 4 March 2022. The Bill is designed to ensure environmental laws change as criminal behaviours evolve. It has expanded regulatory powers to hold those responsible for contamination and pollution more accountable.
Victoria’s focus for environment protection and human health has shifted to a prevention-based approach. Now, regulators have stronger powers to investigate businesses when it comes to issues like permissions, waste disposal, reporting pollution and managing contaminated land.
There have been large increases in penalties, and businesses that commit serious breaches can be fined up to $3.2 million. Deliberate or repeat offenders are at risk of receiving jail time.
The consequences of failing to manage legislative updates
Satisfying legislation is mandatory for businesses and non-compliance can lead to a range of consequences that cost money, harm your reputation and even result in imprisonment in serious cases.
When there is a serious breach, fines could enter the hundreds of thousands of dollars. On top of this, organisations would need to pay not only their own legal costs but also those of the prosecution.
Serious offences like breaches of director’s duties, false or misleading disclosure and dishonest conduct can result in imprisonment. The penalties for breaches of corporate laws have recently been strengthened, with maximum prison penalties for the most serious offences increasing to 15 years.
In addition to legal penalties, organisations will often suffer damage to their reputation. Community perception of the company could shift – for instance if the business isn’t satisfying their requirements under environmental legislation – which may have financial implications if customers choose to boycott the organisation.
Breaches can also prompt existing employees to leave the company and even deter potential staff from applying. For example if you are known for not meeting health and safety requirements many employees may not want to work with you.
Loss of time is another common consequence of non-compliance with legislation. The organisation sometimes needs to pause operations until the issue is resolved, which could significantly hinder profitability and in a worst case scenario result in the company going out of business.
In instances like health and safety legislation breaches, community members or employees may also be subject to otherwise preventable injury or illness.
When it comes to legislation, the consequences of getting it wrong can be both significant and detrimental to your business’ future prosperity. Having systems in place for effectively managing legislation and meeting the requirements is a must.
Get in touch with a legislative updates expert
Our team are available Australia-wide and have extensive experience in helping businesses get and stay compliant with legislation. For more information or if this article has brought up any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our legislative updates consultants.
Contact us today and find out how our team can help you achieve your business’ compliance goals.