Organisations should prepare for whistleblower reforms by considering their internal reporting framework and culture. Internal programs will be under the spotlight as legal reforms become imminent.
On 23 October 2017, the Federal Government released draft legislation containing significant reforms to Australia’s private sector whistleblower laws.
The Bill, if adopted in its current form, will require all public companies and large proprietary companies to create and make available internal whistleblower policies or risk facing penalties. There are a number of other proposed changes that you should be aware of including greater access to compensation for whistleblowers and new penalties for breaches of confidentiality. Bounty-style reward payments for whistleblowers are not within the current draft legislation and this will be considered by the Expert Panel Committee, along with other recommendations, made last month by the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Read KPMG’s brief on the Bill, including questions you should consider. We hope you find it useful along with our podcast below.
The recommendations proposed by the Bill are designed to strengthen legislative protections and motivate organisations to improve their whistleblower programs.
Below is a snapshot of the key recommendations that you need to know.
1. A broader group of persons will be eligible for protection – This will include former officers, employees, contractors and suppliers as well as associates and family members of these individuals.
2. A broader category of disclosures will be covered, including suspected contraventions of a range of Federal laws.
3. Anonymous disclosures will be allowed.
4. Whistleblowers will be able to disclose to a wider range of persons, including media and members of Parliament where certain strict criteria are met.
5. Immunity will be available to whistleblowers in respect of information that they disclose.
6. There will no longer be a requirement for whistleblowers to make a report “in good faith”. This will be replaced by the need to have “reasonable grounds” to suspect misconduct or improper circumstances.
7. It will be mandatory for public companies and large propriety companies to have a whistleblower policy in place. Those who fail to do so will face a penalty.
8. Penalties will apply to individuals and companies who reveal a whistleblowers identity without consent.
9. Financial compensation will be easier for whistleblowers (and others) to access.
10. A separate tax regime will be introduced to provide protections for whistleblowing on tax matters.
Now is the time to consider your internal whistleblower program and ensure that you are well positioned for the changes ahead.
Some questions to consider:
KPMG Forensic provide a range of specialist whistleblower services, including: