6 Legal and Compliance Matters for Churches to Address

June 17, 2021 - 6 minutes read

Church organisations need to ensure they are compliant with legal and other obligations in their operations and activities

strips of paper with the words illegal and legal

Image from Pixabay

Here are some of the main issues to consider when it comes to legal and compliance matters for non-profits.

1. Privacy law and cybersecurity

Organisations under the Privacy Act are obliged to abide by Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) and to secure any personal and sensitive information they collect from people. This includes keeping the information in secure storage and deleting it is when no longer needed.

Strong data security measures are crucial regarding this. This is because information can get stolen in cyber-attacks which could lead to loss of privacy, data breaches, or identity theft.

For more information on these topics see our posts below:

2. Safe workplace and premises

Churches, charities and community organisations that use paid employees or volunteers must provide a safe working environment for them to operate.

This includes:

– Adequate training of staff and volunteers.

– Safe physical premises and workplace practices to reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.

– Workplace policies and procedures to protect against harassment, bullying and abuse.

– Workers’ Compensation insurance to cover employee injury claims at work.

For further reading:

Employers must also abide by the Fair Work Act with regard to working conditions and remuneration.

Churches should also take steps to ensure their premises are as safe as possible for members, guests and visitors. This includes adhering to the essential safety measures regarding fire safety and paths to exits. Our article on the common essential safety measures for churches explains this in more detail.

 3. Child safety

Any organisation that works with kids should have strong child safety policies and procedures in place to prevent criminal acts occurring against children in their care.

Considerations for this include:

– Training of staff and volunteers in child safety.

– Conducting Working-With-Children (WWC) checks and police and background checks for all workers that will be working with kids.

– Setting up reporting and response procedures for suspected child abuse.

For more detailed information check out our previous posts:

4. Financial management

Not-for-profits in Australia are obligated to practice responsibility when handling finances and to be compliant with directives from the ACNC (Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission) and the tax office (ATO).

This includes:

– ACNC reporting – organisations registered with the ACNC need to provide information about their finances and activities.

– ATO compliance – such as monthly or quarterly GST and PAYG reporting and payments.

– Superannuation obligations – i.e. monthly or quarterly Super Guarantee payments for employees.

– Internal financial controls – such as dual authorisers for online banking and payments, and tight security over cash handling.

– Fraud prevention strategies – to reduce the risk of internal fraud crimes.

– Regular financial audits – these should preferably be done by an external auditing company to ensure greater independence.

– Responsible use of donations – including transparency regarding use of funds and respect for donor privacy rights.

Further reading on these topics:

5. Legal structure

The type of legal structure you set up for a not-for-profit affects matters like taxation and liability. The most common legal structure for churches and charities is ‘incorporated’, as it allows for establishing a legal entity that is separate from members. Other options include an unincorporated association or a company limited by guarantee.

Whatever your choice of structure It’s best to seek professional legal advice before going ahead, so you understand how it will affect your organisation and its members.

6. Compulsory insurance coverage

Certain types of insurance are compulsory for businesses, churches, and charities.

This includes:

– public liability insurance in case of third party injuries;

– workers’ compensation for organisations that employ people; and

– third party personal injury cover for organisations that own vehicles.

Get in touch with our office if you would like to know more about any of the above matters or to discuss your CCI insurance policy.

Written by Tess







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