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Wednesday 13 November 2019

19-308MR ASIC gives guidance on companies’ whistleblower policies and relief to small not-for-profits

ASIC has provided guidance to assist companies meet their obligation to have a whistleblower policy.

As part of the corporate sector whistleblower reforms, public companies, large proprietary companies, and proprietary companies that are trustees of registrable superannuation entities must have a whistleblower policy available to their officers and employees by 1 January 2020.

Regulatory Guide 270 Whistleblower policies (RG 270) helps these companies establish policies that support and protect whistleblowers.

RG 270 sets out the components that a whistleblower policy must include to comply with the law. These include:

  • types of matters covered by a policy
  • who can make and receive a disclosure
  • how to make a disclosure
  • legal and practical protections for disclosers
  • investigating a disclosure
  • ensuring fair treatment of individuals mentioned in a disclosure.

RG 270 also provides good practice guidance to assist companies develop and implement policies that are tailored to their operations.

‘Robust and transparent whistleblower policies are essential to achieving sound risk management and corporate governance,’ said Commissioner John Price.

‘Whistleblower policies will influence behaviour and corporate culture in positive ways – for example, by encouraging greater disclosures of wrongdoing and by deterring people from doing the wrong thing. They play a crucial role in achieving a more fair and accountable corporate environment.’

In addition to the release of RG 270, ASIC is granting relief to public companies that are not‑for‑profits or charities with annual revenue of less than $1 million from the requirement to have a whistleblower policy.

‘We will provide relief to small not-for-profit or charitable companies from the whistleblower policy requirement because we understand that these entities may face a compliance burden that outweighs the benefits a policy might otherwise offer,’ said Commissioner Price.

All companies are bound by the whistleblower protections in the Corporations Act from 1 July 2019, regardless of whether they are required to have a whistleblower policy.

Regulatory Guide 270 follows public consultation through ASIC Consultation Paper 321 Whistleblower policies (CP 321). We received 40 submissions from a range of stakeholders including industry and professional bodies, academics, legal and consulting firms, not‑for‑profit organisations and members of the public.

ASIC plans to survey the whistleblower policies of a sample of companies next year to review compliance with the legal requirements.

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Background

The Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019 amended the Corporations Act 2001 so that a single, strengthened whistleblower regime covers the corporate, financial and credit sectors. The new laws applied from 1 July 2019.

To provide guidance to whistleblowers on their rights and protections and how ASIC handles their reports, ASIC has previously updated information on our website and issued two new information sheets:

  • Information Sheet 238 Whistleblower rights and protections (INFO 238)
  • Information Sheet 239 How ASIC handles whistleblower reports (INFO 239).

ASIC has established the Office of the Whistleblower and enhanced our internal processes for communicating with whistleblowers and dealing with their reports.

ASIC has provided funding and technical assistance to the Whistling While They Work 2 research project on corporate sector whistleblowing coordinated through Griffith University.

Last updated: 13/11/2019 01:35