After working as a physiotherapist, you may be considering the next step in your career. Opening a clinic is an exciting and challenging venture for a physio. You have the opportunity to apply your practical know-how and expand your client base. However, navigating the legal requirements to get your business off the ground can be difficult. Our checklist below will help ensure your legals are in order as you set up your physiotherapy business.
The APA Standards for Physiotherapy Practices set out the standards required in the private sector to deliver quality and safe health care. Ensure you understand your obligations when considering the rights and needs of each client, practice management and services, physical environment and quality management.
Starting Your Physiotherapy Business
When deciding to start your business, you will need to determine which business structure you will adopt. There are pros and cons to each structure including sole traders, partnerships, companies and trusts.
It is common for physiotherapists to structure their business as a company. This structure will reduce your personal liability should you fail to meet any financial obligations.
The ability to limit your liability is important as you enter into contracts with third parties such as employees, landlords and suppliers. A company structure is also consistent with future planning. It makes the process of bringing onboard investors or franchising your business easier.
Registering for an ABN, TFN, GST
You will also need to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN). If you have structured your business as a company, you will also need an Australian Company Number (ACN) and a Tax File Number (TFN). You should also register your business and trading name. If you are a sole trader, you can use your personal TFN.
You will also need to register for goods and services tax (GST) if you anticipate your annual turnover to be greater than $75,000. You can do this at the same time as your ABN and TFN.
Protecting Your Name with a Trade Mark
Have you chosen a unique name for your physiotherapy business and want to prevent other traders from using this? To ensure that your business has proprietary rights over your business/trading name, you will need to register for a trade mark.
A good trade mark is distinctive. Trade marks that are too descriptive of the goods and services provided will be difficult to register. For example, you will not be able to trade mark the name ‘Physiotherapy Business’ but can register names like ‘Physioworks’. We would also advise registering your logo (where applicable) along with your business or trading name.
Unless you intend to buy, it is likely that you will have a retail or commercial lease. As your rent will take up a large percentage of your outgoings, you should familiarise yourself with the terms of the lease and what they mean for your business.
The key terms that you should look to negotiate are:
- rental amount;
- rent free period;
- option period to extend the lease;
- what you can use the premises for; and
- whether you can sub-lease or licence the property.
You may also consider obtaining fire and perils insurance so that you protect the property you are renting.
Employing staff is an exciting step to take as a new business owner as it indicates growth. Some considerations when doing so include:
- Are you employing contractors or employees?
- What role will they take on – casual, part-time or full-time?
- Are you employing someone in administration or another physiotherapist?
You will need to comply with the National Employment Standards (NES) as minimum standards of employment. You will also have to make sure you are compliant with the relevant award agreements.
Insurance is particularly important for physiotherapists as you have a duty of care to those visiting your practice. You may then choose to take out public liability insurance in case a third party sustains an injury while at your practice. Work cover insurance will also protect you in the case anyone sustains an injury while working.
Terms and Conditions
When engaging with clients, it is essential you have a well-drafted set of terms and conditions to govern the relationship between your practice and client. This document should include terms regarding payment, privacy as well as consent to treatment.