Business Compliance and Criminal Law: Staying on the Right Side of the Law

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 03:34 pm

In Victoria, businesses are required to comply with criminal law statutes and regulations in order to operate lawfully. Failure to comply with these laws can result in severe consequences for both the business and its employees. This blog post will provide an overview of criminal law in Victoria and the importance of compliance for businesses operating in the state. Head to Dribbin & Brown Criminal Lawyers website to speak to a criminal lawyer in Victoria.  

Understanding Criminal Law in Victoria

Criminal law in Victoria is enforced by various law enforcement agencies and regulatory bodies. The law applies to all businesses operating in Victoria, regardless of their size or industry. Some of the criminal law statutes and regulations that businesses need to comply with in Victoria include:

  • Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)
  • Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic)
  • Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

Compliance Framework for Businesses in Victoria

To ensure compliance with criminal law, businesses in Victoria are required to develop compliance policies and procedures that outline their obligations under the relevant statutes and regulations. These policies and procedures should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure they remain relevant and effective.

The Victorian Government and industry bodies provide guidance and support for businesses to develop and maintain effective compliance programs. This includes the publication of compliance guidelines and best practice resources, as well as training and education programs for businesses and their employees.

Developing compliance policies and procedures

Developing effective compliance policies and procedures is essential for businesses to ensure they are operating within the law. Key elements of an effective compliance program include:

  • Risk assessment: identifying and assessing the risks of non-compliance
  • Internal controls: implementing measures to prevent non-compliance
  • Training: educating employees on their obligations under the law
  • Monitoring: regularly monitoring and reviewing compliance policies and procedures

Businesses can seek advice and support from industry bodies and legal professionals to develop effective compliance programs.

Risks and Consequences of Non-Compliance

Non-compliance with criminal law can have severe consequences for both the business and its employees. These consequences may include:

  • Fines and penalties: businesses can face significant fines and penalties for non-compliance with criminal law
  • Reputation damage: non-compliance can damage a business’s reputation and result in loss of customer trust
  • Legal action: businesses may face legal action from regulatory bodies or individuals affected by non-compliance

Recent cases of non-compliance in Victoria include the 2018 prosecution of the City of Melbourne for breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act, resulting in a $250,000 fine.

Responding to non-compliance

If a business becomes aware of non-compliance with criminal law, it is important to take action to address the issue. Steps that businesses can take include:

  • Self-reporting: voluntarily reporting the non-compliance to regulatory bodies
  • Remediation: taking steps to address the non-compliance and prevent future breaches
  • Cooperation: cooperating with regulatory bodies to resolve the issue

Best practices for responding to non-compliance include seeking legal advice and engaging with industry bodies for support.

Compliance Monitoring and Review

Regular monitoring and review of compliance policies and procedures is essential to ensure continued compliance with criminal law. This includes regular risk assessments, internal audits and training for employees.

Businesses should also monitor changes to criminal law statutes and regulations to ensure their compliance policies and procedures remain up-to-date.

Whistleblower Protections for Employees Reporting Non-Compliance

Whistleblowers play a crucial role in exposing non-compliance and other wrongdoing within businesses. However, employees who report such misconduct often face the risk of retaliation, including termination, harassment, and discrimination. To encourage employees to come forward and report non-compliance, Victoria has established legal protections for whistleblowers.

Under the Protected Disclosures Act 2012, employees who report non-compliance are protected from retaliation by their employers. The Act covers disclosures made by employees in the public sector, as well as those made by employees of private companies. Protections under the Act include immunity from civil or criminal liability, as well as protections against adverse employment actions such as termination or demotion.

To be eligible for whistleblower protections, employees must make their disclosure in good faith and have reasonable grounds to suspect that the non-compliance has occurred. Additionally, the disclosure must be made to an appropriate authority, such as a regulator or law enforcement agency.

Differences in Compliance Requirements for Small vs. Large Businesses in Victoria

Compliance requirements for businesses in Victoria can vary depending on the size and nature of the business. Small businesses, in particular, may have different compliance obligations than larger businesses.

Small businesses are defined as businesses that have fewer than 20 employees or a turnover of less than $10 million per year. These businesses may be exempt from certain compliance requirements, such as reporting requirements or certain occupational health and safety obligations. However, small businesses are still required to comply with other laws and regulations, such as those related to taxation and employment.

Larger businesses, on the other hand, may have more extensive compliance obligations. These businesses may be subject to reporting requirements, such as annual financial reporting or environmental reporting. Additionally, larger businesses may be required to comply with more complex laws and regulations, such as competition and consumer law or workplace health and safety laws.

It is important for businesses to understand their compliance obligations, regardless of their size. Failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations can result in serious legal and financial consequences, including fines, litigation, and reputational damage. Businesses should seek professional advice to ensure that they are meeting their compliance obligations in Victoria.

The Key Takeaways 

In Victoria, compliance with criminal law is essential for businesses to operate lawfully and avoid severe consequences. Developing effective compliance policies and procedures and regularly monitoring and reviewing these programs is key to ensuring continued compliance. Businesses should seek advice and support from industry bodies and legal professionals.

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