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Clients of your organisation fall into a special category of person. Several areas of law apply to the relationship between an organisation and its clients. These include privacy laws, and regulation of the particular industry (for example if health services are provided or your organisation sells food or alcohol).
Go to Not-for-profit Law’s page on privacy law for detailed information on privacy requirements and Australia’s privacy regulator.
Duty of care, risk and insurance
Your organisation is likely to owe a duty of care to its service users, and your organisation should consider what potential risks are involved in providing services, and how to manage those risks.
Not-for-profit law has information on Risk and Insurance that can help your organisation assess risks and appropriate responses to risk.
Advertising and consumers
Your group should also make sure that it complies with laws about advertising and promotion when advertising its services. See the Not-for-profit Law page on advertising and communications.
Clients vs members
Remember that people can fall into several categories when they interact with your organisation, for example a member may also be a client. Your organisation should make sure that it meets its obligations for each circumstance, including maintaining appropriate and separate files of information. For example, a common issue is the recording of sensitive medical information or other inappropriate information on the members register of a not-for-profit. Medical information should be kept separately to information relating to a person's membership status.
Discrimination laws can apply when providing services, and should always be kept in mind. The Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) protects a number of personal attributes from discrimination in various situations including in employment and in providing goods and services. Your organisation needs to know about the personal attributes and the situations covered by the Equal Opportunity Act and also the exception and exemptions that are available.
As of 1 August 2011, when the new Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) came into force, there are a number of new laws which affect community organisations - importantly, the sexual harassment provisions of the Act now apply to volunteers (in the same way that they apply to employees).
The Act also creates a positive duty on community organisations to eliminate discrimination where possible, and makes some changes to indirect discrimination.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has created a series of fact sheets to help volunteer-involving organisations, and volunteers, understand the Act. See the links in the Resources section below.
Victoria also has a Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. For more information on how your community organisation can assist with protecting and promoting human rights see Not-for-profit Law’s fact sheet below. This fact sheet includes information on the following issues:
- the particular human rights protected by the Charter
- assessing whether the Charter applies to your organisation
- complying with Charter obligations, and
- what happens when anorganisation breaches the Charter?
Discrimination and sexual harassment when providing services
The Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW) protects a number of personal attributes from discrimination in various situations including in employment and in providing goods and services. Your organisation needs to know about the personal attributes and the situations covered by the Anti-Discrimination Act and also the exceptions and exemptions that are available. For information on this area of law go to:
- Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW (ADB) – Anti-discrimination law and service providers
- Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW (ADB) - Exemptions
- Australian Centre for Disability Law – Disability and discrimination
- Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW
- Australian Human Rights Commission
- Australian Centre for Disability Law