Whistleblower Protection Laws

01 JUN 2020

 

Whistleblowers are protected under law, and recent changes now have put a stronger onus on companies and public organisations to have stringent policies in place to protect whistleblowers.

Reforms have broadened who is covered under the protections, now encompassing anyone who has ever been employed or contracted to the organisation, the employees of contractors, associates to the organisation and relatives of those people.

Failure to comply with the new whistleblower legislative requirements carries a maximum fine of $12,600.00.

As of 1 January 2020, specific organisations are now required to have a whistleblower policy. These include:

  • Public companies;
  • Large proprietary companies; and
  • Proprietary companies that have trustees of a superannuation entity.

We recommend that every business consider and implement a compliant policy relating to whistleblowers and disclosures.

In order for the policy to be compliant, it must at least canvas the following points:

  • the protections available to whistleblowers;
  • how and to whom an individual can make that disclosure;
  • what support will be provided;
  • how the investigation will proceed and occur;
  • how fair treatment of employees mentioned will occur; and
  • how the policy will be made available.

What does this mean for your business?

The recent developments in the law mean you must keep up-to-date and be compliant otherwise you could be at risk of not complying with the updated whistleblower laws.

Preliminary points that you should consider include:

  • implementing a compliant policy;
  • preparing a clear policy and practice guide for investigating whistleblower claims. That policy will need to manage requirements of confidentiality and disclosure.
  • processes for disclosures need to be assessed, investigated and escalated where appropriate, ensuring that claims are adequately managed.

This includes having defined roles in the organisation regarding whom to contact, how to contact them and what will happen including the expected timeframes once contact is made.

  • Training staff in the new changes regarding disclosures. This would include training for:

-     managers (or anyone that the disclosure could be made to) about what to do if a disclosure is made to them; and

-     all staff, on how to make a disclosure, what protections apply to them and how the overall process will work.

If your organisation requires a whistleblower policy or an update to your existing policy, and/or if you require tailored advice regarding your organisation’s needs, please contact Aaran Johnson on ajohnson@marsdens.net.au or Simon Kumar on skumar@marsdens.net.au or by phoning 02 4626 5077 to discuss.

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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