Increased protection for whistleblowers: What this means for employers
From 1 July 2019, changes to the Corporations Act 2001 will enhance protections for whistleblowers within Australian companies who make disclosures about potential corporate, financial or tax misconduct.
What are the new protections for Whistleblowers?
The most notable changes of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2019 (Cth) include:
- Expansion of the whistleblower protection to current and former officers and directors, employees, contractors, suppliers, unpaid workers, and an employee’s relatives or dependants.
- Expansion of the range of people who can receive a whistleblower’s disclosure to include officers or senior managers of the entity, an auditor, actuary, or regulators such as ASIC or APRA but removing the person’s managers or supervisors.
- A broader range of misconduct that individuals will be able to make protected disclosures about (corporate corruption, bribery, fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing); however importantly, disclosures about personal work-related grievances are not generally protected by the laws, including interpersonal conflict, or decisions about a whistleblower’s employment or their former employment.
- Replacement of the current ‘good faith test’ with a requirement that the whistleblower has objectively reasonable grounds to suspect wrongdoing.
- Strengthening immunities for whistleblowers.
- Allowing anonymous disclosures.
Requirement for a Whistleblower policy
The Whistleblower Bill also introduces a new requirement for all public companies and large proprietary companies to have a compliant whistleblower policy from 1 January 2020, or face potential fines of up to $12,600.
As of 1 July 2019 a large proprietary company is a proprietary company which satisfies at least two of the following:
- the consolidated ‘group’ revenue for the financial year is in excess of $50 million;
- consolidated gross assets of $25 million or more; and
- the company and any entities it controls has 100 or more employees at the end of the financial year.
What organisations need to do
CCER members should consider their corporate status and whether the new requirements may apply to them.