26 September 2023

Commissioner blows whistle on whistleblowers

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A Commissioner of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has called on Australian companies to review their whistleblower policies to ensure they comply with the latest protection regime.

The Commissioner, Sean Hughes said the past three years had resulted in extensive changes to the Australian whistleblower protection regime.

“Public companies, large proprietary companies and corporate trustees of registrable superannuation entities are required to have a whistleblower policy that reflects the strengthened whistleblower protection regime that started on 1 July 2019,” Commissioner Hughes said.

“This includes clearly setting out the legislated protections for whistleblowers and how they can report misconduct,” he said.

Commissioner Hughes said after allowing a period of time for companies to adapt to the 2019 reforms, ASIC had conducted a review of 102 whistleblower policies throughout 2020.

“Unfortunately, the majority fell short,” he said.

“Two of the most prevalent and concerning deficiencies we saw were incomplete or inaccurate information and obsolete, out-of-date policies.

“These issues suggest that many companies do not fully understand the enhanced whistleblower protection regime or, worse still, have chosen to ignore it.”

The Commissioner said this was so concerning that ASIC had written an open letter to chief executives, urging them to review their whistleblower policies to ensure they complied with the law.

“We encourage company directors to discuss this letter with senior management and think about their workplace culture of speaking up,” he said.

“If the issues we observed from our review are present in their company’s policy, we expect them to be addressed and corrected without delay,” Commissioner Hughes said.

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