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December 12, 2019

What You Need to Know About the Changes in the Australian Whistleblowing law

The 1st of July 2019 marked the day where Australia put into affect the changes to its whistleblowing laws. Public and Large private organizations have until 1st January 2020 to take action to comply with the laws. The amendments make several changes and affect a number of stakeholders. Below are 5 ways in which the law has changed that you should be aware of:

  1. Who has to have Whistle blower services: All public companies have to comply with the law as well as companies with (thresholds considers figures for consolidated group of companies):
    1. Revenue in excess of $50m;
    2. Gross assets of more than $25m; or
    3. 100 or more employees at the end of the financial year
  2. What conduct can be reported and receive protection: Disclosures about personal work-related grievances will only be protected in certain limited circumstances
  3. Who can report and receive (including journalists) disclosures of violations and gain protection: Current and previous employees, contractors, suppliers and their employees, an individual who is an associate (as defined in the Corporations Act) of the entity, and spouses and relatives of any of the above.
  4. Regulations on anonymity and penalties for breach of anonymity: Whistleblowers identity is now protected by the law, and engaging in (or threatening to engage in) detrimental conduct towards a whistleblower or potential whistleblower, will carry a civil penalty.
  5. Penalties for non-compliance with new laws: Failure to comply with the new laws by 1st January 2020 will result in penalties

The above changes may require you to take action.

While we recommend that you speak to a professional about your specific needs, here are the 3 things you need to consider regarding the changes in the whistleblowing laws:

  1. Ensure you have a compliant Whistleblowing policy: The first step in ensuring your policy is up to date is to establish exactly what your policies are and the gaps you have in complying with the new law. Here are a few considerations for an updated or new policy;
    1. How and to whom a person can report a violation;  
    2. How a company will support and protect a whistleblower;
    3. How a company will protect people mentioned in reported violations;
    4. How a company will investigate reported violations.
  2. Ensure Whistleblowers anonymity when reporting: Before the law changed, whistleblowers where required to identify themselves. With the law amended, whistleblowers have the option to remain anonymous. The option to come forward with crucial information allows whistleblowers to feel safe and secure from retaliation.
  3. Staff training and re-training on new policies: The changes in the regulation are significantly different to the old laws and it is important that employees are made aware of the changes. They will need to be trained on how to make the most impactful decisions around whistleblowing in order to enact the policy changes. For example, managers are now considered acceptable personal able to receive reports of a violation. They will need training to know how to receive and disclose information under these circumstances.

If you already have a policy in place, it is important you ensure it meets the new requirements, and update your policies if it does not. If you do not have a policy in place, you need to ensure it complies with the new laws by the 1st January 2020 or face penalties. 

Speak to one of our professionals to understand what you need to do to have a comprehensive compliance program.

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About Giovanni Gallo