What is a whistleblower?
Whistleblowers are those people who identify and call out wrong doings, misconduct and actions of individuals and corporate entities, that could potentially harm consumers and/or the community, including employees of those organisations.
It’s important that people feel safe to come forward with this information. To encourage whistleblowers to disclose their concerns and protect them when they do, the Corporations Act 2001 (Corporations Act) sets out the legal rights and protections for whistleblowers.
Changes to legislation protecting Whistleblowers
Earlier this year, the whistleblower protections in the Corporations Act was expanded to provide greater protections for whistleblowers. The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2019 (Cth) (Whistleblower Bill) was passed on 19 February 2019 with changes including:
- Extending the range of people eligible to make disclosures.
- Expanding the types of disclosures that can be made (corruption, bribery, fraud, money laundering, terrorist financing, etc.).
- Allowing anonymous disclosures.
- Protections for emergency or public interest disclosures to journalists or members of parliament.
- Removing the option to report disclosures to supervisors or line managers. This was made with the intention of reducing the compliance burden on companies.
Does your business require a Mandatory Whistleblower Policy?
Further, based on this bill passing, now public companies, large proprietary companies, and corporate trustees of APRA-regulated superannuation entities must have a compliant whistleblower policy and make this available to their officers and employees.
MANDATORY WHISTLEBLOWER POLICIES MUST BE IN PLACE BY THE 1st of JANUARY 2020.
Compliant whistleblower policies
Whistleblower policies must be developed or revised to include information about the legal protections available to whistleblowers, how disclosures will be investigated and how whistleblowers will not be disadvantaged by coming forward with information.
For a whistleblower policy to be compliant with the new legislation it needs to include the following:
- how the policy will be made available to officers and employees of the company;
- how and to whom disclosures can be made;
- the eligibility criteria for whistleblowers making protected disclosures;
- the process for investigating disclosures;
- the legal protections available to whistleblowers;
- how whistleblowers will be supported and protected from disadvantage; and
- how employees mentioned in disclosures will receive fair treatment.
Failure to have a policy will be considered a criminal offence and penalties will apply for those entities that do not have a complaint whistleblower policy in place by 1st January 2020.
Whistleblower policy not mandatory for your Business?
Even if your business is not required to have a formal whistleblower policy, you may benefit from documenting and implementing a strategy for handling any whistleblower reports received. A whistleblower policy will help provide information to your employees around whistleblowing, and show your business is meeting best practice standards in this matter. By showing how your business is providing better protections for individuals who disclose wrongdoings, you have the opportunity to improve the culture through establishing trust and transparency, encouraging more disclosures and thereby deterring this kind of misconduct.
Now is the time to make sure you are complying with the legislation, and if you need assistance in preparing a Whistleblower policy before the 1 January 2020 deadline, get in touch with us today.