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Virtual assistants; mumpreneurs' secret weapon

By Alan J. McDonald


By McDonald Murholme Senior Associate, Bianca Mazzarella

There is an increasing number of professional mothers who have recently given birth and are needing to find more money due the rising cost of living. They either go back to work sooner than planned or decide to start their own business at home so they can spend more time with their children. These mothers are called ‘mumpreneurs’ and are also known as women entrepreneurs.

If all goes to plan and the business flourishes, a mumprenuer may find herself looking for some extra help but can’t afford a permanent employee. This is where a virtual assistant can come in to the rescue.

What is a virtual assistant?

Virtual assistants are rising in popularity for start-ups and are also known as a remote personal or administrative assistant. Instead of working on site, a virtual assistant works remotely, usually from the comfort of their own home. This arrangement removes the need for a mumprenuer to accommodate an extra person in her working environment.

Due to technology improvements and advances over the current years such as document sharing and online organisational databases, the dream of working remotely has become a reality.

Virtual assistants tend to be highly skilled, independent professionals who can provide a business with administrative, technical and creative business support in an affordable and flexible way.

What do virtual assistants do?

Virtual assistants can help an employer save a large amount of time at an affordable rate. They can cover aspects of the business that are considered tedious, and or time consuming. Essentially, they will complete the jobs an employer / management team does not have time to do, such as:

  • Data entry
  • Email management
  • Customer service responsibilities such as answering phone calls
  • Content writing
  • Web development
  • Bookkeeping
  • Act as a marketing assistant

What is the difference between a virtual assistant and an employee?

Despite doing similar work to that of an employee, a virtual assistant is considered as an independent contractor. The worker will provide most of the equipment required to complete the work such as a computer and mobile phone. The virtual assistant is technically running their own business as they set the fees, hours, policies and procedures and are also in charge of their own bookkeeping and taxes.

In comparison, an employee will have scheduled working hours each week to correlate with their full time or part time employment status. The employee will usually work at the organisation’s premises with supplied equipment and receive all employee entitlements and benefits such as annual leave and sick leave.

What workplace rights does a virtual assistant have? Independent contractors have different obligations and rights to employees because they are running their own business. If a virtual assistant is considered a genuine independent contractor, they then have limited resource and may not be protected by claims such as unfair dismissal.

In certain cases, some general protections provided under the Fair Work Act 2009 extend to independent contractors and their principals. Independent contractors are protected from adverse action by any person in relation to the decision to exercise their rights under these provisions.

Adverse action an independent contractor may face include:

  • Misrepresentation,
  • Coercion
  • Undue influence or pressure.

If a business owner is considering hiring a virtual assistant and is not sure what their legal obligations are and what contractual arrangements are required, seeking legal advice is recommended.