6. Other Statutory Obligations
Board Members can also incur personal liability under other legislation such as:
- Equal Opportunity Act 2001 (Vic)
- Australian Consumer Law (Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth))
- Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic
- Environmental Protection Act 1970 (Vic)
- Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and 1997 (Cth)
- Protected Disclosure Act 2012 (Vic)
- other legislation (including Superannuation Legislation).
Most of this legislation is dealt with by the Principal and management team in the day-to-day operation of the School, but the Board must have a broad overview of the relevant issues as such issues are the Board’s ultimate responsibility.
For example, the Australian Consumer Law prohibits corporations (the school) from engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct, or conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive. It is the responsibility of the School Board, as part of its governance role, to ensure that the School delivers on any promises or inducements it makes to parents or other stakeholders. If a School advertises or promotes that it offers a remedial program, then it must actually deliver such a program. Failure to do so may result in liability for misleading or deceptive conduct. This is an important governance issue for Boards as the temptation arises for schools to promise particular services and outcomes which they may not necessarily deliver on. They may ‘over promise and under deliver’. All advertising and promotional material published by the School must reflect the School’s actual policies and programs. School Boards must also ensure that the School does not make any false or misleading representations in relation to the quality of services offered. Schools receive income, primarily from parents and government and should expect that these and other stakeholders will hold them accountable for the services the schools provide.
The School Board must also oversee compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic). This Act requires the School actively secure the health, safety and welfare of employees and students and to provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably practicable, an environment that is safe and without risks to health. As part of its governance role, the Board must ensure that the School is in a safe condition and that there are adequate facilities in place (i.e. clean toilets, hygienic playgrounds and eating areas, etc). The conduct of the School must not endanger School employees, students, visitors to the School or the general public. An employer’s obligation under occupational health and safety law to provide a safe workplace for all its employees encompasses a duty to take all reasonable steps to provide a workplace that is free from harassment, discrimination and bullying. Again, the Board is not involved in the day to day issues but needs to ensure that there are appropriate procedures in place.
For planning purposes local government is also important. Most Local Government Authorities now require Schools to produce and maintain a Site Master Plan. As the Board is responsible for the School’s strategic direction, this Master Plan is inextricably linked to the overall Strategic Plan.
Outdoor education poses its own risks. It is imperative, whether the school provides the outdoor education program itself or outsources the responsibility to third party providers, that there is an appropriate risk assessment undertaken.