Whistleblower legislation update – do you have your policy ready?

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 (Cth) (“Amendment”), came into effect on Monday 1 July 2019 with the aim of enhancing the protection for Australian whistleblowers. Among the changes made by the Amendment was a mandatory requirement for certain businesses to have a whistleblower policy. Do you have yours ready?

WHICH
COMPANIES ARE REQUIRED TO HAVE A WHISTLEBLOWER POLICY?

It is mandatory for all public companies, corporate trustees of a registrable superannuation entity and large proprietary companies to have a whistleblower policy in place 1 January 2019 or else they risk facing civil and criminal penalties.

s 45A(3) of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (as amended by the Corporations Amendment (Proprietary Company Thresholds) Regulations 2019) defines a large proprietary company as a company that satisfies two of the following criteria:

  • The consolidated revenue for the financial year of the company and the entities it controls (if any) is $50 million, or more;
  • The value of the consolidated gross assets at the end of the financial year of the company and the entities it controls (if any) is $25 million, or more; or
  • The Company and the entities because it controls (if any) have 100, or more employees at the end of the financial year.

WHAT ARE THE
MAIN FEATURES OF A
WHISTLEBLOWER
POLICY?

Helpfully, the Amendment also
sets out the following matters which must be covered in a whistleblower
policy:

  • Information about the protections available to whistleblowers;
  • Information about to whom disclosures that qualify for protection
    may be made, and how they may be made;
  • Information about how the company will support whistleblowers and
    protect them
    from detriment;
  • Information about how the company will investigate disclosures
    that qualify for protection;
  • Information about how the company will ensure fair treatment of
    employees
    of the company who are mentioned in disclosures, or to
    whom such disclosures relate;
  • Information about how the policy is to be made available to
    officers and employees of the company; and
  • Any matters prescribed by the regulations.

SHOULD I
HAVE A WHISTLEBLOWER POLICY EVEN IF AM NOT LEGALLY OBLIGATED TO HAVE ONE?

In short, yes, your
business should still have a whistleblower policy even if it is not mandatory
for it to have one. This is because having a policy provides far more
benefits
than merely complying with your legal obligations. Specifically,
having a whistleblower policy will assist with:

  • Allowing for the early detection of workplace bullying, fraud, OHS
    issues or illegal activity occurring within the business;
  • Enhancing risk management within the business;
  • Creating a corporate culture underpinned by superior corporate
    governance and transparent operations; and
  • Demonstrating to the world your business is a ‘good corporate citizen’,
    enhancing its overall reputation.

If you need to have a
whistleblower policy under the new laws or would like to invest in one to
improve your business, please get in contact using the details below.

NEED SPECIALIST HELP?

Managing a business can be
difficult enough without having to keep track of various regulatory changes and
requirements. The best way to manage all of these competing priorities is to
understand how each of them can impact your business and to take proactive
measures to ensure you are compliant! We can assist you in gaining this
understanding and taking a proactive approach to your HR obligations through
tailored advice, training programs, and providing comprehensive information
packs.

Mark Ritchie

Mark Ritchie

Mark is passionate about helping Australian businesses efficiently resolve their industrial relations issues. Mark has demonstrated proficiency advising managers, executives and boards of small to medium-sized enterprises, as well as some of Australia’s best-known companies, on both litigious and non-litigious matters.

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