New Ombudsman to provide better protections for small business owners
On 3rd June 2015 a Bill was introduced to the Federal Parliament aimed at providing greater assistance and guidance to small business. The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bill is a Government initiative to provide a Commonwealth-wide advocate at the Federal level for small businesses.
The Bill provides for the role of the Ombudsman to be:
1. A concierge for dispute resolution between small business and larger corporations;
2. A contributor to the development of small business Commonwealth laws and regulations; and
3. Single entry-point agency through which Commonwealth assistance and information regarding small business can be accessed.
In relation to the key functions of the Ombudsman, the Bill provides the following guidance:
The Ombudsman’s advocacy function is aimed at providing the following services:
1. Performing research and enquiries into legislation and regulations impacting on small businesses and reporting to the Minister;
2. Contributing to proposed implementation and amendments to legislation and regulations impacting small businesses and reporting to the Minister; and
3. Promoting best practice in dealing with small businesses.
The Ombudsman will have the ability to require persons to produce information and documents in order to assist the Ombudsman to perform their role.
The Ombudsman’s assistance function is aimed at providing the following services:
1. A contact centre for small businesses to obtain guidance and direction on dealing with disputes through State and Territory bodies and agencies;
2. Provision of advice and recommendations to small businesses on the handling of disputes within the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman;
3. Provision of alternative dispute resolution services to resolve disputes involving small businesses efficiently and cost effectively; and
4. Name and publicise organisations and entities that have failed to participate in or withdrawn from alternative dispute resolution.
The Ombudsman’s interaction function is aimed at working with the State and Territory small business commissions and agencies cooperatively to complement the current frameworks and services provided.
It is proposed for the Ombudsman to be elected for a five-year term with the Government committing funding of $6 million to attain the aims of the role.
The role of the new Ombudsman is a step in the right direction towards offering greater assistance and protections to small business. An example of this greater assistance is the alternative dispute resolution services which will be provided to small businesses. These services are aimed at reducing legal costs and the length of the dispute, specifically when disputes are faced with large organisations.
How we can help
We will keep you updated on the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bill as it progresses. If you have any questions regarding the new role of the Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman and the effect this has on your business, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Mason – Director