Effective 1 July 2019 new Federal whistleblower laws took effect.
The key changes include:
- A requirement for larger Australian companies to introduce a Whistleblower policy by 1 January 2020. A larger company is defined as a company that meets 2 or more of the following requirements:
- Consolidated group revenue in excess of $50m
- Consolidated gross assets of more than $25m
- 100 or more employees at the end of the financial year
- Broader whistleblower protections
- Increased penalties for breaching the whistleblower protections
- A broader category of individuals who can make disclosures protected by laws – now includes employees, officers and suppliers of companies, as well as their family members
- The ability for disclosures to be made anonymously (provided they meet certain conditions) and still be protected by the whistleblower laws.
What disclosures are protected under the whistleblower laws?
The protected disclosures include those where a person has reasonable grounds to suspect that the information they disclose concerns:
- Misconduct regarding any of the entities
- Conduct that breaches the Corporations Act 2001
- Conduct that breaches the ASIC Act or various legislation that relates to insurance and superannuation
- Conduct that is an offence under any Commonwealth law that is punishable by imprisonment of more than 12 months
- A danger to the public or financial system
It is important to note that the legislation does not generally protect work-related grievances such as internal conflict, performance management, terms and conditions of employment or grievances related to termination of employment.
Who can disclosures be made to?
- officers of a company;
- senior managers;
- auditors of a company;
- actuaries of a company; and
- trustee’s of a superannuation entity.
- Journalists or member of State or Federal parliament (only if a number of pre-requisites have been met)
What are the penalties that apply for breaching the laws?
If an individual or company breach the confidentiality of a whistleblower’s identity or threaten to victimise a whistle-blower, fines of up to $1.05m apply to individuals and up to $10.5m apply to companies engaged in the breach.
As HR consultants, Liquid HR can support your organisation in ensuring you are compliant with the new legislation, including ensuring you have a Whistleblower policy in place by 1 January 2020. Please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 887 458.