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What is the whistleblower policy?
A recent sample review of whistleblower policies has ASIC calling on Australian CEOs to remind them of their entity’s obligation under the Corporations Act.
Under the Corporations Act regime for Australia’s corporate sector, companies are required to have a whistleblower policy available to their employees that helps uncover misconduct while providing better protections for individuals who disclose wrongdoings (disclosers). Having an effective whistleblower policy is pivotal to good risk management.
A whistleblower policy must be transparent and contain information about:
- The protections available to employees
- The different types of wrongdoing that can be reported (disclosable matters), and the types of matters that are not covered by the policy
- To whom disclosures that qualify for protection may be made, and how
- How the entity will support whistleblowers and protect them from detriment
- How the entity will investigate disclosures
- How the entity will ensure fair treatment of its employees
- How the policy will be made available to employees
- Any matters prescribed by regulations
In ASIC’s review, they observed policies that contained unclear, incomplete, and inaccurate information.
How well are you meeting your whistleblower policy obligations?
Complete and accurate content
For a policy to be effective it must firstly include the full breadth of information required that is accurate and be written in a clear and understandable manner. The policy needs to equip employees with the necessary information about how to report misconduct and disclose wrongdoing while being protected and treated fairly.
Fostering a positive and open environment
It is important that the information provided is written in a positive tone and uses language that encourages the disclosure of wrongdoing and makes employees feel comfortable doing so. Supporting your whistleblower policy through fostering a positive and open environment is a pillar in encouraging employees to come forward.
Supporting processes and procedures
Successful implementation of a whistleblower policy requires supporting systems, processes and procedures that effectively deal with disclosures and ensure the policy is implemented appropriately and practised consistently. They also provide those who are responsible for oversight with the information needed for successful governance.
Regularly reviewing your policy, processes and procedures are essential to ensure compliance and foster a positive and encouraging whistleblower culture.
Take action now, so that you are well prepared
Even if you have not been contacted by ASIC regarding your whistleblower policy, it is possible that some of your customers or suppliers may have been, and the increased awareness around the importance of meeting these obligations will become a more pressing topic. To help you understand where you sit, we have drafted a self-assessment that will help you go through the process of reviewing your whistleblower policy and identifying if you have work to do.
Are you confident your whistleblower policy is compliant and encourages people to come forward?
If you have questions about whistleblower policies or need assistance in measuring your compliance and working out what needs to be done, we are here to help.