What is a whistleblower policy and do I need one?

Whistleblowing has become an important consideration for not only large businesses, but businesses of all sizes. Whistleblower laws were brought in under the Corporations Act 2001­ (and other laws) and created a legal obligation for many larger businesses to have a whistleblower policy. However, the benefits of utilising a whistleblower policy, as a means to receive any concerns or complaints, goes much beyond merely complying with the law.

What are whistleblower policies?

Whistleblower policies are used to protect a wide range of people who raise concerns or make complaints about serious matters within a business or organisation. Due to the often serious or sensitive nature of these matters, the organisation must ensure that anonymity and confidentiality requirements are observed. Under the Corporations Act 2001, a whistleblower policy should cover the following, amongst other points:

  • purpose of the policy;
  • protections available to whistleblowers;
  • types of things that can be reported;
  • how reports can be made;
  • how the business or organisation will support the whistleblower and protect them from any detriment, and
  • how the business or organisation will investigate disclosures and ensure employees mentioned in the disclosures are treated fairly.

Having a whistleblower policy will then require you to providea system under which whistleblowers can report their concerns in a way to ensure their confidentiality and anonymity. These are typically things like phone lines or online forms.

What are the benefits of a whistleblower policy?

Comply with the Law

Based on the requirements under the Corporations Act 2001, all “large proprietary businesses” and trustees of superannuation entities must have a whistleblower policy. A large proprietary business (including any entities that it controls) is defined as a business that meets two of the following criteria:

  • consolidated revenue for the financial year of the company is $50 million or more;
  • consolidated gross assets at the end of the financial year are valued at $25 million or more, and
  • employs 100 or more employees at the end of the financial year.

A benefit for these organisations in having a policy includes simply complying with the relevant law and avoiding any fines, which have been increased to significant amounts.

Remove Unwanted Behaviour

Apart from being compliant with the law, there are a number of other benefits to having a whistleblower policy in an organisation. Firstly, having a whistleblower policy and an appropriate outlet to raise concerns, e.g. a helpline or online disclosure form, will highlight any unethical, fraudulent, or otherwise unwanted behaviour in your business. It can highlight weaknesses in your business and areas to improve, and also enhance employee morale, amongst other things.

Stop Widespread Problems

In large businesses with high numbers of employees, issues that may be impacting one employee, can also be affecting many. In situations like this, a whistleblower can alert you to an issue that can be resolved before it becomes too widespread. This can be particularly true for underpayment issues, where if small underpayments go unnoticed for a long period of time they can spread and grow to create extremely large underpayments, which can lead to a whole new load of issues.

Improve Employee Morale and Workplace Culture

Part of the benefit in having a whistleblower policy is having a secure outlet for whistleblowers to raise their concerns or complaints. Whistleblower policies will often lead way to hotlines or online disclosure forms as ways for whistleblowers to raise their concerns or complaints, including confidentiality and even anonymity.

As identified previously, a whistleblower policy will require an outlet to receive any concerns or complaints, such as via a whistleblower phone line or online disclosure form. Once these are established, it is important that you make all your employees aware of this resource they can access, which will generally require some level of internal marketing. Whilst the main purpose of this is to create awareness for the whistleblower process, it also demonstrates to your employees that you are invested in them and in providing a safe and positive workplace.

Furthermore, quickly resolving issues that are a detriment to the workplace, (e.g. bullying, toxic cultures, etc.) will also be useful in promoting a healthy workplace, and highlighting to you employees that you value their contribution and experience within the workplace too.

Protect Your Reputation

If your business relies on your reputation to sell products or hire and retain staff, the impacts of negative press relating to issues within your business could be quite damaging. Whistleblower policies, and subsequent hotlines, forms, or any other method of recording concerns, can identify issues prior to any public escalation, meaning they can be dealt with internally, avoiding any potential damage to public perception and impacts that could cause.

How can ER Strategies help?

ER Strategies offers a complete whistleblower service designed to protect your business. We run this for many large businesses, as well as a number of small to medium ones too. The standard service includes:

  • Whistleblower hotline (includes 10 hours of consultation) – which is only answered by senior staff members
  • Online disclosure form – with encryption to ensure anonymity and confidentiality
  • Review and analysis of your current whistleblower policy
  • Online access to our training platform, the ERS Academy for educating your managers and supervisors about their role in the process.

The service comes at a competitive flat rate of $6,500 per annum. If you have any interest in this service, or what to find out more, click here.

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