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How will the “Whistleblower Bill” affect Australian companies?

Currently before the Senate, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2017 aims to improve the protection available for whistleblowers in the corporate, financial, credit and tax sectors.  

If the Bill is passed by the parliament, the new legislation will see major amendments to the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), creating an expanded regime under which both public and large private corporations will be required to implement internal whistleblower policies.  

What changes will come about once the Bill is passed?

How will the Bill affect companies?

Public and large private companies alike need to ensure that they have a structured whistleblower policy in place prior to the required dates.  The policy should be applicable to employees, past employees, contractors, suppliers and family members of employees.  

Additionally, the policy should describe the process for dealing with disclosures, as well as the protections available to whistleblowers.  The policy should also state that the organisation will ensure fair treatment of whistleblowers.  

In addition to any compensation ordered by the court, individuals and corporations that breach a whistleblower's anonymity and/or threaten the victim can face civil penalties up to respectively $200,000 and $1 million.  As such, in addition to executing and distributing a company whistleblower policy, companies should create internal structures of management, at all levels of the company hierarchy, to whom disclosures can be made.  

In line with this, managers who are subsequently appointed to this task should be trained on how to report disclosures in a way that protects the whistleblower's identity.  

Stay tuned for more information on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2017 - Coleman Greig will continue to publish further information on the status of the Bill as it progresses.

If you have a query relating to any of the information in this article, or would like to speak with a lawyer in Coleman Greig's Commercial Advice team with regard to whistleblower protections, please don't hesitate to get in touch: