New whistleblower policies to be implemented in 2020

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is reminding public and large proprietary companies, including retailers, that they have just a few days left to put whistleblower policies in place to be compliant with new legislation that went into effect in July 2019.

The requirement, part of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019, which amended the Corporations Act 2001, means certain companies need to implement whistleblower policies and make them available to officers and employees by January 1, 2020.

The policies must address how companies will protect whistleblowers and investigate their concerns, and may be used by the courts to decide compensation claims.

The corporate regulator provided specific guidance on crafting the policies in a downloadable guide in November, and it plans to survey some companies next year to review the extent to which the policies comply with the new legal requirements and to inform its handling of whistleblower complaints and refine its guidance.

ASIC said its focus for the moment is to understand how companies are responding to the new obligations, rather than enforcing the new law.

It also has established the Office of the Whistleblower and enhanced its internal processes for communicating with whistleblowers and dealing with their reports.

“Whistleblower policies are an important component of corporate governance and can help promote a more ethical corporate culture,” ASIC Commissioner John Price said.

“They encourage employees to speak up and alert management to changes that are necessary to address misconduct and improve their performance.”

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