When running or starting a small business, it’s not unheard of for business owners to employ their family members to work for them. After all, these are employees you have likely known for some time and you’re familiar with their skills and experience. 

It’s common practice to hire family members to work in your business, however, there are certain things you need to be aware of when it comes to paying family members. For example, some family members that work for you will be recognised as ‘closely held payees’. 

Closely held payees are determined as those that are: 

  • Family members of a family run business
  • Beneficiaries of a trust 
  • Shareholders and directors

It can be easier to skip the traditional employer/employee arrangements with someone you’re used to, however, you still need to be aware of your legal obligations as an employer! 

Keep reading to know more about dealing with closely held payees so you can go about matters the right way. 

Running A Family Business

Running a business is an exciting venture. When you get your family involved, it can make it all the more merrier. Doing something you are passionate about with the ones you love most can make it a very meaningful project. 

However, there are some legal obligations when it comes to paying your family members or other closely held payees as staff of the business. 

It’s not considered the same as paying an employee that isn’t close to you. The rules are somewhat different) and it’s important to keep up with the relevant regulations. 

Defining A Small Business

The definition of a small business can vary depending on the context in which it is being asked. For example, if the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is asking, then a small business is a business that has an annual turnover of less than $10 million

In this scenario, a small business would be any business that has less than 19 employees. 

If you have a business with less than 19 employees and have closely held payees working there, then you are required by the ATO to engage in Single Touch Payroll (STP) reporting. 

Paying Family Members In A Small Business

STP reporting is mandatory for closely held payees in a small business. However, you can decide whether this is done with each pay or on a quarterly basis. 

For all other employees, however (arm’s length employees), the reporting of their pay must be done on or before each payday. 

STP reporting is simply the regular reporting most employers would do for all their regular employees. However, the rules changed to include closely held payees in this. In fact, you may decide not to distinguish between closely held payees and arms length payees by reporting their pay during the same period. 

It all really depends on what works best for your business. 

If you’re still unsure about your business, it can help to talk things through with a legal expert. Our lawyers are available and happy to help! 

What Are My Obligations?

As an employer, there are a number of things you need to look out for when it comes to pay and your employees. 

For example, pay secrecy is illegal in Australia. You cannot ask your employees to keep their pay a secret from other employees. If your contracts contain pay secrecy clauses, you might want to consider getting them reviewed. Every employee has the protected right to discuss their pay with another if they choose to do so. In fact, this is often encouraged as it can prevent employees from being paid unfairly

According to Fair Work Australia, there’s a minimum standard setting out how  employees need to be paid. This can depend on the employee’s industry and type of work, so if you’re unsure, it’s best to get in contact with Fair Work or to talk to a legal expert. As an employer, if you’re paying them under the minimum amount or depriving them of other awards and entitlements, then you are most likely in violation of the law. 

Another thing to be aware of is paying employees in cash. Some employers might choose to pay their employees in cash. In fact, at times employees may request this.

This is quite common, however, you still need to keep accurate records and be compliant with ordinary pay duties, such as tax and superannuation contributions. Paying cash in hand can sometimes raise eyebrows as it’s often associated with illegal or under the table activities.  However, if it’s done correctly, then it can be a perfectly legal practice.   

Key Takeaways

  • Family members, shareholders, trust beneficiaries and directors in a small business can be known as ‘closely held employees’. 
  • In this context, a small business is considered to be one with less than 19 people
  • STP reporting is mandatory for all closely held employees of a small business, however you can determine whether this is done on a quarterly basis or during regular pay periods 
  • As an employer, it’s important to be aware of your other obligations when it comes to paying your employees, such as avoiding pay secrecy practices. 

If you would like a consultation on your employer obligations, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or team@sprintlaw.com.au for a free, no-obligations chat.

About Sprintlaw

Sprintlaw's expert lawyers make legal services affordable and accessible for business owners. We're Australia's fastest growing law firm and operate entirely online.

(based on Google Reviews)
Do you need legal help?
Get in touch now!

We'll get back to you within 1 business day.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Related Articles
ASIC Fees In 2024
What Laws Do Businesses Have To Follow?