As of July 1, 2019 the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 expanded protections for “whistleblowers” making disclosures about companies and company officers.
What is a whistleblower?
A person who informs on a person or organisation regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity.
What are the key changes?
- The whistleblower definition has been expanded to include both current and former employees, officers, and contractors, as well as their spouses, dependants, and other relatives, and anonymous disclosures.
- There is no longer a requirement that a whistleblower satisfy a ‘good faith’ test to access the protections, i.e.; motivation is not an issue.
- The reforms give protections for whistleblowers in certain circumstances if they go public with concerns about dangers to the public or matters in the public interest to the media or parliament.
- The reforms provide whistleblowers with easier access to compensation and remedies if they suffer detriment.
- Personal workplace grievances are not covered by the protections.
- Significant fines can be issued against companies or individuals who disclose the identity of a whistleblower or treat a whistleblower detrimentally.
- As of 1 January 2020, all public companies, large proprietary companies, and corporate trustees of registrable superannuation entities are required to have a whistleblower policy. The reforms set out in detail what a Whistleblower policy should contain.
- ASIC (The Australian Securities and Investments Commission)* will oversee the protections and has the power to grant companies relief from compliance with the Whistleblower policy requirements
What types of disclosures are protected?
- Misconduct or an “improper state of affairs or circumstances” regarding any of the entities covered by the laws or their related bodies corporate.
- Conduct that breaches the Corporations Act 2001 or conduct that breaches the ASIC Act or a range of specified insurance, life insurance and superannuation statutes.
- Conduct that relates to an offence against any law of the Commonwealth which is punishable by imprisonment for 12 months or more, or
- A danger to the public or the financial system.
It is important to note that the protections do not extend to ‘personal work-related grievances’, (that is grievances by an employee relating to their employment or former employment which impacted them personally).
Who can a protected disclosure be made to?
A disclosure may be made to an ‘eligible recipient’ which includes officers or senior managers (but not other employees) of the company as well as the company’s auditors, actuaries or another person authorised by the company.
As an Employer – what do I need to do?
- Have a whistleblower policy included in your policy suite. If you already have a whistleblower policy contact HR Central to ensure that it reflects the above changes.
- Ensure all staff are aware of, read and agree to the new policy.
- If you don’t have a whistleblower policy in place, it is advised that you add one to your policy suite. HR Central can provide you with a policy written in plain English that is easy to understand for all employees. *HR Central software is a great way for any business to store a suite of tailored policies whereby all employees must sign and agree to.
- HR Central advise appropriate training and education to managers and supervisors (or other staff classified as recipients of a disclosure).
*ASIC is an independent Australian government body that acts as Australia’s corporate regulator. ASIC’s role is to enforce and regulate company and financial services laws to protect Australian consumers, investors and creditors.
Our focus is to ensure our clients are compliant and understanding of workplace laws. Sometimes legislation can be overwhelming. Sometimes you just don’t have time to focus on ensuring that every requirement is met. Protect your business and contact HR Central for easy and affordable HR solutions that fit your business.