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Changes to the Whistleblower Protections Bill 2019

whitleblower

Recent changes to the Whistleblower Protections Bill 2019 now provide greater protections for eligible whistleblowers. The new protections also apply to some disclosures where the wrongdoing occurred before 1 July.

In summary, the Bill expands the whistleblower framework by:

  • allowing for anonymous disclosures;
  • extending the scope of people who are eligible to make protected disclosures to include former officers, employees and suppliers of the entity in question, and the family members of these people as well;
  • amending the range of people who are eligible to receive protected disclosures to include officers or senior managers of the company, the company’s auditors, actuaries or another person authorised by the company and removing the person’s managers or supervisors;
  • broadening the range of conduct which can be reported and receive protection to include bribery, corporate corruption, money laundering, fraud and terrorist financing;
  • allowing for ‘emergency’ or ‘public interest’ disclosures to be made directly to the media or parliament in extreme cases;
  • removing the requirement that the disclosure is made in ‘good faith’, provided that the whistleblower has objectively reasonable grounds to suspect misconduct or a contravention or an improper state of affairs or circumstances;
  • reversing the onus of proof where an individual seeks compensation, once they have established that they suffered detriment; and
  • expanding the remedies available to whistleblowers who suffer backlash by improving access to compensation.

By 1st January 2020 public companies; large proprietary companies; and proprietary companies that are trustees of a registrable superannuation entity, must have a whistleblower policy in place.

Note: To determine whether your company is a ‘large proprietary company’ that will require a whistleblower policy, your company will have satisfied at least two of the following criteria for a financial year as at 1 July 2019:

  1. the consolidated revenue for the financial year of the company and any entities it controls is $50 million or more;
  2. the value of the consolidated gross assets at the end of the financial year of the company and any entities it controls is $25 million or more; and
  3. the company and any entities it controls have 100 or more employees at the end of the financial year.

Should a company fail to implement a whistleblower policy, it will be deemed a criminal offence with the maximum penalty of $126,000.

If your company does not meet at least two of the above criteria, it is considered ‘a small company’ and does not strictly require a whistleblower policy. However, considering the enhanced protections, we recommend that you do implement a whistleblower policy in your workplace.

For assistance with this, please contact HR Advice Online at [email protected] or 1300 720 004.

Information in HR Advice Online guides and blog posts is meant purely for educational discussion of human resources issues. It contains only general information about human resources matters and due to factors such as government legislation changes, may not be up-to-date at the time of reading. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such.

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