New rules for corporate whistleblower protections come into effect in Australia

Maria Nikolova

The new regime will maintain confidentiality of whistleblowers and will prevent them from suffering or being threatened with detriment.

The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) has announced that a new regime for corporate whistleblower protections gets into effect today. Whistleblowers who report misconduct about companies and company officers can now access stronger rights and protections in the Corporations Act 2001.

The Corporations Act now enhances protections for corporate whistleblowers with requirements to maintain their confidentiality and prevent them from suffering or being threatened with detriment. Whistleblowers can also seek compensation if they suffer loss, damage, or injury for making their disclosure.

The protections under the new regime apply to a larger group of people who may observe or be affected by corporate misconduct and face reprisals for reporting it. They cover both current and former company employees, officers, and contractors, as well as their spouses and dependants, even where these people wish to remain anonymous.

The protections will apply to whistleblower reports covering misconduct or an improper state of affairs or circumstances, not just breaches of the law.

The changes to the whistleblower protections will also require public companies, large proprietary companies, and corporate trustees of registrable superannuation entities, to have a whistleblower policy from January 1, 2020. ASIC says it will consult on regulatory guidance on the requirement for a whistleblower policy in due course.

ASIC Commissioner John Price commented:

‘ASIC considers a strong and effective arrangement for handling reports from whistleblowers is a key component of corporate governance. We encourage companies to implement a strategy for dealing with whistleblower reports they may receive in line with the legislative requirements.’

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