Whistleblowers play an important role in identifying and calling out misconduct and harm to consumers and the community. To encourage whistleblowers to come forward with their concerns and protect them when they do, the Corporations Act 2001 (Corporations Act) gives certain people legal rights and protections as whistleblowers.
From 1 July 2019, the whistleblower protections in the Corporations Act have been expanded to provide greater protections for whistleblowers. This will include requiring public companies, large proprietary companies, and corporate trustees of APRA-regulated superannuation entities to have a whistleblower policy from 1 January 2020.
Summary of the corporate sector whistleblower protection regime
Information for whistleblowers
We value the people from inside companies and organisations who come to ASIC with reports of potential misconduct or breaches of the law. Whistleblowers provide ASIC with important information and help us enforce the laws we administer and address and prevent harm to consumers. We take the concerns whistleblowers raise with us seriously.
ASIC has release two information sheets for people to understand who is eligible to access the whistleblower rights and protections under the Corporations Act and how we will respond to reports of misconduct from whistleblowers.
- Information Sheet 238 Whistleblower rights and protections (INFO 238)
- Information Sheet 239 How ASIC handles whistleblower reports (INFO 239)
Information for companies, company officers and company auditors
Company officers, company auditors, and other senior people within companies have obligations under the Corporations Act if they receive a report from a whistleblower. Unless these people handle the whistleblower report correctly, they may breach the Corporations Act obligations.
The whistleblower protections include criminal offences and civil penalties for a person causing or threatening to cause detriment to a whistleblower or breaching a whistleblower's confidentiality, including during an investigation into the whistleblower's concerns.
Further information for company officers and company auditors is being updated following the reforms.
Handling whistleblower disclosures
Public companies, large proprietary companies, and corporate trustees of APRA-regulated superannuation entities must have a whistleblower policy from 1 January 2020. Among other things, the whistleblower policy must include information about the legal protections available to whistleblowers, and how a company will investigate whistleblower disclosures and protect whistleblowers from detriment.
ASIC has released Regulatory Guide 270 Whistleblower policies (RG 270) to help companies and other entities establish a whistleblower policy that complies with the legal obligations. It also contains our good practice guidance on implementing and maintaining a whistleblower policy.
Even if your company does not require a formal whistleblower policy, your company may benefit from documenting and implementing a strategy for handling any whistleblower reports you may receive in line with the legislative requirements. This may form part of the broader governance or compliance measures within your company. RG 270 may also assist entities that are not required to have a whistleblower policy but are required to manage whistleblowing in accordance with the Corporations Act.
Whistling while they work is a Griffith University research project looking at improving managerial responses to whistleblowing in public and private sector organisations.
|Listen to a podcast on protecting whistleblowers with ASIC Commissioner John Price.|
You can also read his speech on encouraging whistleblowers.