Advivo Business Advisors and Accountants explain the temporary legislative changes to digital signatures and what they mean for your business.
With the rise in remote working, border closures and lockdowns, tasks as simple as getting a document signed by your clients, co-directors and even staff can be very challenging. This is why on 14 August 2021 the government reinstated a temporary legislation addressing the issues relating to the signing and attesting of documents. This legislation update offers greater flexibility to companies by allowing some documents to be in an electronic form and signed digitally. This legislative update will remain in effect until 1 April 2022.
Similar amendments were passed at the beginning of the pandemic last year but recently lapsed, causing uncertainty around the validity of electronic documents and digital signatures.
In general, the reinstated legislation establishes that:
- Physical documents may be signed using split execution
- A director, secretary or witness may digitally sign a document (or its copy or counterpart)
- A copy or counterpart of a document doesn’t need to include all the signatures.
You can digitally sign a document in a number of ways. Digital signatures include:
- Digitised signatures—a scanned handwritten signature inserted as an image; use of signature blocks (e.g. on emails)
- Online forms—Adobe forms; workflow approvals in applications (e.g. timesheets)
- Touch screens—signature on a touch screen using a stylus (e.g. Australia Post courier delivery)
- Digital signatures—use of digital code and encryption technology to verify the contents of a digital document.
It is possible to witness documents remotely without using an electronic signature. For example, you can physically sign a hardcopy document, then scan and send it to another person while maintaining an audio-visual link (e.g. using Zoom or Skype)
This legislation offers more security into the ability to sign important documents despite the instability of the current situation. Even regardless of the pandemic, these amendments will likely be welcomed into our increasingly digital culture. If you have any questions about these amendments and what they mean for your business, please contact us today and we will be happy to help.