1 July 2019: New Australian Whistleblower Regulation

Changes to Australia’s Corporations Act 2001 and Taxation Administration Act 1953 will come into law as of 1 July 2019, expanding protections for whistleblowers who report misconduct…

According to the changes, from July all public companies and large proprietary companies will be required to have a whistleblower policy in place and available to employees. Failure to comply carries penalties.  

Broadly speaking, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 seeks to “consolidate and broaden the existing protections and remedies for corporate and financial sector whistleblowers” as well as “create a whistleblower protection regime for disclosures of information by individuals regarding breaches of the tax laws or misconduct relating to an entity’s tax affairs”. 

Specifically, the reforms:

  • broaden the whistleblower definition to include both current and former employees, officers, and contractors, as well as their spouses, dependants, and other relatives, and anonymous disclosures
  • extend the protections to whistleblower reports that allege misconduct or an improper state of affairs or circumstances about any matter covered by financial sector laws and all Commonwealth offences punishable by imprisonment of 12 months or more
  • create civil penalty provisions, and in addition to the existing criminal offences, for causing detriment to (or victimising) a whistleblower and for breaching a whistleblower’s confidentiality
  • give protections for whistleblowers in certain circumstances if they go public with concerns about dangers to the public or matters in the public interest
  • provide whistleblowers with easier access to compensation and remedies if they suffer detriment
  • remove the requirement for a whistleblower report to satisfy a ‘good faith’ test to access the protections, though a report solely about a personal workplace grievance is not covered by the protections, and
  • from 1 January 2020, require all public companies, large proprietary companies, and corporate trustees of registrable superannuation entities to have a whistleblower policy.

“Respect and fair treatment for whistleblowers, commitment to address whistleblower concerns, and reporting of whistleblower concerns to senior executives and board members will assist a company to manage itself, comply with its obligations, and improve its performance,” says ASIC of the amendments. 

Next steps

Update your whistleblower policies and processes to ensure that they comply with the new regulations now. 

New whistleblower policies should contain:

  • information about the protections available to whistleblowers, including protections under the law
  • information about how and to whom disclosures should be made. “This will be important for whistleblowers to be sure of the company’s arrangements, given that a company can authorise particular staff or third parties to receive disclosures from whistleblowers”.
  • 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 under the law. This will be important for whistleblowers to understand how their reports and their personal information will be handled during any investigation
  • information about how the company will ensure fair treatment of employees of the company who are mentioned in disclosures that qualify for protection under the law, or to whom such disclosures relate
  • information about how the policy is to be made available to officers and employees of the company

Companies will have until 1 January 2020 to implement whistleblower policies compliant with the law. 

Find about more about implementing ethics reporting systems by downloading this free guide

For more information on complying with the amendments contact Report It Now for a free, confidential consultation.

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