Whistle-blower Protection Laws

16 MAY 2019


New protections for whistle-blowers will commence on 1 July 2019 under the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2018. In the past, many businesses have treated whistle-blower protection with a low level of compliance. The implementation of this Act will enforce systems to allow people to report wrongdoing without reprisal.

The whistle-blower protection will apply to protect a person who reveals information about misconduct by regulated entities such as insurers, banks, and superannuation trustees. A company that apprehends a protected whistle-blower, or fails to prevent one of its employees from doing so, could become liable.

In order to avoid penalties, public and large proprietary companies will be required to produce a whistle-blower policy by no later than 1 January 2020. These companies must also provide additional training to ensure that potential recipients of disclosures know how to identify a whistle-blower report and steps to take if they receive one.

The categories of people who can obtain protection include former officers, employees, members and contractors of organisations, suppliers to, and associates of, the regulating entity and the relatives and dependants to those people.

Under the new laws, a whistle-blower cannot be:

  1. subjected to any criminal, civil or administrative liability for making the disclosure; or
  2. disciplined or sacked for making the disclosure.

It will become an offence to:

  1. disclose the identity of a whistle-blower to anyone other than regulators and legal representatives without the whistle-blower’s consent; or
  2. threaten or cause detriment to a whistle-blower because of the disclosure.

A company may face substantial liability, including pecuniary penalties up to $1,000,000, if it fails to realise it is dealing with an eligible whistle-blower. If a company takes any prohibited action against them because of their disclosure, this action will be void, and may constitute victimisation, in which case employers can be ordered to pay compensation.

If you would like advice or assistance in relation to any Commercial matters, please contact our Commercial Law Department on 02 4626 5077.

Author: Daniel Friend, Associate.

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.

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