The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) advises all relevant entities to consider authorising an independent whistleblowing service provider to receive disclosures under their whistleblower policies in its relevant Regulatory Guide (RG 270, November 2019).
Businesses doing business in Australia and wanting to demonstrate their ESG credentials need to have whistleblowing at the top of their ‘to do’ lists.
HopgoodGanim can provide you with a confidential whistleblower reporting service for your employees and other third parties, to assist you to perform your obligations under Australia’s whistleblower protection laws. Our whistleblowing reporting service is a valuable tool that can help businesses both manage the considerable legal risks inherent in the topic, as well as demonstrate their commitment to a culture of ethical conduct and transparency.
HopgoodGanim Whistleblowing Reporting Service
As part of our HopgoodGanim Whistleblowing Reporting Service, we can:
- take and document reports or complaints made under your own whistleblowing policy;
- for that purpose, maintain dedicated phone and email channels to which reports and complaints might be made. The service contemplates that you will incorporate these into your own whistleblowing policy and/or complaint/reporting mechanisms;
- provide you, in suitable form, with the detail of reports or complaints made through the service; and
- liaise, as appropriate, with whistleblowers.
Along the way we will make sure to keep complaints and reports confidential and secure and, as legally required, help you to protect the confidentiality of whistleblowers’ identities.
Other whistleblowing services
Outside or additional to the HopgoodGanim Whistleblowing Reporting Service, we can also:
• train your relevant personnel about the basics of Australia’s whistleblower protection laws;
• help you develop a compliant whistleblower policy (see above review by ASIC of a sample of whistleblower policies);
• investigate complaints or reports made under the policy;
• advise you how to manage such complaints or reports and the individuals affected by them.
Why do you need a whistleblowing service?
- Whistleblower protection laws are complex. At their core, Australia’s whistleblower protection laws under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) apply to all Australian companies and corporations trading in Australia. Those laws – described by ASIC as ‘world-leading’, are also complex. To comply with them is challenging. We can help you do that at one of the key moments when compliance becomes important – when reports or complaints are first received.
- Whistleblower protection laws have significant implications. Very significant liabilities and penalties can apply for missteps. For example, to disclose the identity of a whistleblower without their consent (even within the senior management team) can lead to criminal prosecution and jail time for individuals of up to six months, additional to a maximum fine of more than $13,000 and, for a corporate offender, a maximum fine of more than $133,000. We can help you avoid these in addition to potential civil liabilities.
- The regulator thinks it’s a good idea. ASIC, Australia’s corporate regulator, fully recognises the compliance challenges in its related regulatory guide. Their ‘good practice tip 6’ is to ‘consider authorising an independent whistleblowing service provider’ to receive complaints and reports from whistleblowers.
- You are likely to have to engage with the whistleblower protection laws at some stage. Whistleblowing activity is on the rise. Between FY2019 and FY2021 whistleblower reports made to ASIC rose by 194% (from 278 to 817). ASIC’s figures only scratch the surface. In our practice – and we engage with whistleblowing activities very regularly –the vast majority of whistleblower reports don’t find their way to ASIC.
Contact our team
For further information about our Whistleblowing Reporting Service, please contact our Workplace and Employment team, your usual HopgoodGanim or Effective Governance adviser, or, send us a note to email@example.com.
Our Workplace and Employment team can also provide legal expertise across wider employment, industrial relations and workplace health and safety matters, advising about compliance with regulation, optimising workforce engagement and outcomes, and managing and containing exposure to possible disputes or litigation.