Blowing the Whistle on Whistleblowers
How will the proposed Whistleblower Bill affect your business?
A recently proposed bill enforcing greater whistleblower protections may push businesses to review and reform their internal whistleblower policies.
LawPath offers an incorporated online tool to gain access to a customisable and ready to use whistleblower policy.
Introduced by the Senate on 7 December 2017, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2017 aims to improve protection to those who expose misconduct in corporations – specifically in the taxation, finance and credit sectors.
Targeting the gaps and uncertainties within the current legal remedies, the proposed bill aims to create an all-encompassing regime, in order to provide greater assurance to individuals who are considering whether to disclose corporate misconduct.
The bill has stipulated:
- Amendment to the Corporations Act to strengthen protection of whistleblowers in financial corporations;
- Amendment to the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (TAA) to boost safeguards for individuals who disclose breaches of tax laws by businesses;
- Expanding the scope and types of disclosures that will be protected as well as strengthening immunities to whistleblowers;
- Improving compensation claims access; and
- Repealing the existing laws and creating a single comprehensive whistleblower protection regime.
Impact on Businesses:
If passed, the Bill has proposed that from 1 January 2019, all public companies as well as large private companies will need to have internal whistleblower policies, compliant with the new laws. Companies that fail to do so will receive a penalty of up to 60 points ($12, 600). Additionally, corporations would also face penalties of up to $1 million if a whistleblower’s anonymity is breached in any way. Businesses should also be prepared for whistleblowers to disclose information to their own lawyers while obtaining legal advice, as under the new laws, this will also be protected.
What Should Companies do Now?
Whether or not the bill is passed, it is highly likely that both political parties will support mandatory whistleblower policies. Businesses should make sure their policies are compliant with the suggested terms, including a clear outline on how the organisation will ensure fair treatment of employees who are mentioned in protected disclosures, a well-documented process for dealing with disclosures, and information about the protection offered available.
The Senate has referred the Bill to the Economics Legislation Committee for an inquiry and report by 16 March 2018. If passed, the new legislation will start operating on or after 1 July 2018.
What do you think about this bill? Will these whistleblower policies affect your business? We would love to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts by tagging us #lawpath or @lawpath.