The new mandatory whistleblower protection regime imposes rigorous requirements on corporate Australia: from 1 July 2019, Australian companies are required to protect whistleblower employees and must also implement a compliant whistleblower policy by 1 January 2020.
The reforms mean a significant increase to the protections afforded to corporate whistleblowers as well as tough civil and criminal penalties for breaches of the regime, including penalties up to $10.5 million.
Here, senior associate Kristy McCluskey and lawyer Joe Fleming outline the changes and provide some practical tips on what you need to do.
The new regime applies to public companies and large proprietary companies across all sectors.
A proprietary company is defined as 'large' for a financial year if it satisfies at least two of the following criteria:
In determining whether a company meets these criteria, entities it controls must also be included.
On 7 August 2019, ASIC issued Consultation Paper 321 along with draft guidance on the requirements of an entity's whistleblower policy. A policy needs to contain information about—
There are some fundamental steps companies need to take to ensure a rigorous and transparent process:
ASIC welcomed the reforms and is seeking comments on Consultation Paper 321 and the draft regulatory guidance by 18 September 2019. The final regulatory guide is expected to be released in October 2019.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about whether your company is required to have a whistleblower policy and your compliance requirements, please contact our team.