The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2018 has introduced huge reform for whistleblowing laws in Australia. It came into effect on 1st July 2019.
The new amendment brings significant changes to the eligibility and protection of corporate whistleblowers, and introduces higher penalties for organisations that fail to meet the new requirements.
All public companies and large proprietary companies in Australia must implement a compliant whistleblowing policy in line with the changes by 1st January 2020.
Read the Bill for the full list of changes.
What you need to know
Who does it affect?
The new regime took effect on 1st July 2019. It applies to public companies and large proprietary companies in Australia across all sectors including banking, general insurance, life insurance and other prescribed regulated entities.
Companies now have until 1st January 2020 to implement a compliant whistleblowing policy in line with the new changes.
Any small proprietary company that becomes a large proprietary company after 1st January 2020 will have an additional six months to establish a compliant whistleblower policy.
What does it change?
The new laws give corporate whistleblowers enhanced protection in a number of ways, including:
- Who can submit a report
The new bill expands the categories of who can make a disclosure to include former officers, employees, contractors and suppliers, as well as family members.
- Where reports can be submitted to
There is now an expanded range of persons or entities to which a whistleblower may make a disclosure and still be protected under the new laws.
- Identity protection
The new laws introduce enhanced requirements designed to protect a whistleblower’s identity during and following a disclosure.
- Anonymous reporting
For the first time in Australia, whistleblowers can submit reports without the need to declare their identity, or prove the disclosure is being made in ‘good faith’.
- Increased legal protection
Overall, there is a significant increase in legal protections for whistleblowers, including improved access to compensation for those who suffer reprisal or retaliation following a disclosure.
The laws have also introduced significant penalties ranging up to $10.5million for breaches of the new whistleblower protections.
From 1st January 2020 it will be an offence to not have a compliant whistleblowing policy in place, which will also result in a fine.
Not sure where to start?
Our experts are on hand to give you advice on how to meet the new requirements. Arrange a conversation today to find out how we can help you prepare.
What you need to do
1. Review and revise your existing whistleblowing policy
A fundamental requirement of the new whistleblowing laws is for organisations to have a compliant whistleblowing policy in place by 1st January 2020. Due to the extensive changes it is unlikely that any existing whistleblower policy will comply with the new laws.
We recommend working with an established legal firm to draft a new policy, but first consider what you need in order to have a secure, compliant whistleblowing procedure that produces results.
2. Enable Anonymous Reporting in your organisation
For the first time Australian laws will no longer require whistleblowers to identify themselves or make their disclosure in ‘good faith’.
Global data from our annual benchmarking report shows that in 2018, 72% of whistleblowers chose to remain anonymous from their employer.
Providing an anonymous reporting option therefore not only drastically increases the effectiveness of your reporting channels, but will also prevent breaches of the new laws where protection of the whistleblower’s identity is concerned.
We recommend offering an anonymous or confidential reporting channel as part of your whistleblowing policy to ensure that employees can come forward with vital information without fear of reprisals or retaliation.
3. Ensure your reporting channels are robust and effective
Having secure reporting channels in place will be a vital part of operating a compliant whistleblowing policy.
The acceptance of anonymous disclosures, coupled with the enhanced legal protections, will lead to a dramatic increase in reports. It is therefore essential to make sure you have an effective, secure reporting procedure in place.
We recommend implementing a secure whistleblowing service as part of this to ensure best practices are being met.
4. Enhance internal measures to protect the identity of whistleblowers
Once your employees make a disclosure, it’s vital to keep their identity and the content of their report confidential. The way organisations manage this information will be an important aspect of a compliant whistleblowing policy.
With disclosure rates on the increase, the way you store and manage incident reports will be just as important as how you capture them.
We recommend reviewing your current case management arrangements to ensure you are not at risk of breaching the new whistleblower protection rules.
5. Empower your people to do the right thing
Even with all the above in place, the new changes will be significant and could have a culture-changing impact on the way companies in Australia operate. It is important to make sure your people are made aware of the upcoming changes, and know how to report or handle incidents the correct way.
Implementing independent reporting channels and a proven case management solution will help relieve the pressure put on internal reporting channels, providing an easier route to compliance and reducing the risk of future breaches.
How Expolink can help
Confidential, independent reporting channels
A confidential whistleblowing hotline can be operated and administered internally by your own team, or by an independent provider like Expolink.
If you’re new to hotline services, you may be unsure of where to begin. Download our Insider’s Hotline Buying Guide to learn what questions you should ask when speaking to hotline service providers.
Secure, online case management tools
Any internal solution will need to include an effective communication strategy, and administrative tools that comply with the new legislation.
An external hotline provider is likely to include access to secure, online case management tools and communication materials as standard, saving you time and resource.
Resources, data insight and more
Expolink is much more than just a whistleblowing hotline. We’ve been empowering people to Speak Up for over 20 years by helping organisations to transform their internal culture and put the whistleblower first.
Our annual benchmarking report provides key insights into whistleblowing data and trends from organisations across the world, from every industry. We can even provide specially developed communications to help you promote your Speak Up services internally.
Take your first steps towards compliance with Expolink
We can help you identify and implement a compliant whistleblowing hotline, as well as secure case management tools to help you meet the new requirements.
Get in touch with one of our ethics and compliance specialists today!