Frequently Asked Questions

Core Integrity is a leading Whistleblower hotline service provider in South Australia

Important things to know about whistleblowing in Australia:

The legislation as it relates to whistleblowing is contained in the Corporations Act here in Australia and requires all publicly listed companies (on the ASX for example) and large proprietary companies to comply with the provisions of the legislation.

This means having a compliant Whistleblower Policy and developing a program that supports compliance per the legislation (i.e. protecting whistleblowers, ensuring no detrimental conduct occurs to a whistleblower, defining how your whistleblower program works, how to make a report and what the company will do to assess, respond and manage protected disclosures).

There are 4 key aspects of the legislation that you need to know about:

1. Who is an eligible whistleblower? This is an employee, contractors and employees of contractors/suppliers, volunteers or anyone who works in an organisation that is captured by the legislation. It also includes spouses and dependents of an employee.

2. That the issue they report is “reportable conduct” – that is an improper state of affairs within a company, an issue that may be a breach of law and carry a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more (fraud, theft, corruption etc) and other types of issues such as potential safety issues, serious bullying and harassment etc

3. That the report is made to an ‘eligible recipient’ – the whistleblower must make the report to an eligible recipient, and these include:

  • A member of the board (an officer of the company)
  • A senior executive (a senior manager in the company)
  • An external hotline such as Core Integrity
  • An auditor
  • A member of parliament
  • A journalist

4. That the organisation itself is a prescribed organisation as defined under the legislation – a publicly listed company, a large proprietary company etc

Just because an organisation is captured under the legislation doesn’t mean it must have an externally managed hotline. They must have a compliant whistleblower policy and that policy must articulate a range of things (as outlined above), but the legislation does not specifically prescribe that organisations need an externally managed hotline such as the one we provide. However – it is considered best practice and more and more companies, even those not captured by the legislation, are looking to appoint an external hotline provider to improve the way they manage whistleblowing. Part of the value proposition at Core Integrity is that we provide a safe pair of hands to help them manage the process.

We help organisations in Queensland respond to instances of fraud and employee misconduct the right way - the first time

Frequently asked questions about whistleblowing:

1. What is the definition of a whistleblower?

A whistleblower is an employee, contractor or person working in an organisation who reports an issue such as wrongdoing, a criminal act or some other serious misconduct occurring and who as a result of making that report is protected from having reprisal or detrimental action taken against them as a result of them “blowing the whistle”.

2. What is the purpose of whistleblowing?

A whistleblower is an employee, contractor or person working in an organisation who reports an issue such as wrongdoing, a criminal act or some other serious misconduct occurring and who as a result of making that report is protected from having reprisal or detrimental action taken against them as a result of them “blowing the whistle”.

3. Can a whistleblower get into trouble?

No, but historically Whistleblowers have been treated poorly – where they have their identity exposed or confidentiality broken and have been subjected to detrimental conduct such as bullying, demotion, loss of opportunity or had their employment terminated. Hence this is why over the past 5 years or so most Western countries have sought to strengthen their respective whistleblower laws in order to protect whistleblowers and to encourage employees to speak up. A whistleblower will only receive the protections of the legislation if they make the report in good faith – i.e. you can’t make a vexatious report or target someone unfairly (without basis) and expect to be protected under the legislation.

4. What is a whistleblower violation?

We don’t use that phrase, but I think what you are asking is “How can a whistleblower be treated badly?” or “How does a whistleblower have their rights violated?” Essentially this occurs when their name and identity are exposed to others without the whistleblower’s consent (express consent is required to share the identity and information in their report with another party) or the whistleblower is exposed to detrimental conduct in the workplace such as being made redundant, demoted or bullied because they were a whistleblower

5. What is the whistleblower hotline number?

We have several. We have a standard 1800 toll-free number that some clients use whilst most of our clients have a dedicated toll-free number, and we answer calls in the name of the organisation.

6. What should be reported to the whistleblowing line?

Any conduct that may be illegal, criminal or constitute a breach of a policy. Common issues reported include fraud, theft, bribery and corruption, bullying and harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination, safety issues that breach workplace safety laws etc. Under legislation in Australia, this is referred to as “reportable conduct”

7. How do you investigate a whistleblower?

Complicated to answer but in short, the first step is to assess whether a report constitutes/qualifies as a protected disclosure in the first place (must meet the 4 criteria I outlined above) and then depending on the issue the organisation needs to undertake a fair and independent investigation.

8. Are whistleblowers protected by law?

Yes. Each country usually has some form of whistleblower laws. In Western democratic countries, and those trying to reduce bribery and corruption there has been a steady focus over the past 5 years to improve protections for whistleblowers. Australia released new legislation in 2020, there are new laws across Euro countries, the USA has certain legislation and Japan has updated their legislation.

9. How much is a whistleblower paid?

In Australia, we do not pay whistleblowers. This occurs in the USA in certain situations.

10. Under what conditions are whistleblowing permitted?

Per the above points.

11. Do you need evidence to whistleblow?

Not necessarily. You need to have a reasonable basis, but you don’t need to collect the evidence. The point of whistleblowing is to provide legislated protection to people who witness or uncover improper conduct in a workplace and encourage them to report it. The purpose is to hear about issues as early as possible which means you only need to suspect the issue; you don’t need to locate evidence or investigate as a regular employee.

12. Can you whistleblow anonymously?

Yes

13. What is malicious whistleblowing?

Vexatious whistleblowing is where someone makes a false report of improper conduct in order to get retribution on another person or to distance themselves from the conduct.

14. Why do whistleblowers still get punished?

Often serious fraud, corruption and other types of misconduct are committed by middle to senior management. Whistleblowing, and externally managed hotlines, are an effective method for detecting and uncovering these issues but because the perpetrator is often a senior person, they can seek to minimise their conduct, discredit the whistleblower, sweep the issue under the carpet (ignore it) or take detrimental action against the whistleblower in order to protect themselves and their company. The culture around whistleblowing is changing slowly and the adoption of improved legislation across the world is helping in this regard.

15. What is a whistleblower policy?

A document that outlines the company’s position on whistleblowing and details its commitment to whistleblowers, who can make a report, how to make a report, the process when a report is made and what they won’t do (i.e. detrimental conduct).

16. Why use core integrity as a whistleblower hotline service provider?

We may need a detailed session on our value proposition but in short, leveraging our earlier point around more serious issues being committed by senior employees, global stats support that employees are more likely to speak up and report misconduct involving senior people to an independent hotline like Core Integrity. An independent and external hotline provider like Core Integrity provides the organisation with the capacity (to receive reports around the clock to triage/assess and provide advice), capability (experience to speak with people, elicit information etc) and consistency (by following set SOPs and providing a high-quality experience). We call this our 3C’s. We also have a secure technology platform that allows people to report both confidentially and anonymously. Anonymous whistleblowers can remain anonymous throughout the reporting process using our technology but also engage in the process, receive updates and provide further information. Additionally using a company like CI also helps provide advice to design and manage your whistleblower program to help reduce or minimise the risk of breaching the legislation.

17. Are whistleblower policies mandatory in Australia?

Across the whole country – it is Commonwealth (not State based) legislation contained under the Corporations Act.

18. What is ethical whistleblowing?

Speaking up for the right reasons with no hidden agenda or other motivations.

19. What happens if a whistleblower is wrong?

It depends. The main answer is nothing. It is the role of the investigator to collect the evidence and assess the issues. The key is to encourage employees to speak up when they observe, see or experience an issue.

20. How do you handle whistleblowing?

We need to explain. It is too hard to answer here. Book a consultation session with us.

21. Is whistleblowing a crime / illegal?

Whistleblowers can report illegal issues, including crimes. It is illegal to breach the whistleblower legislation by exposing their identity without consent, not having a compliant whistleblower policy or taking detrimental action against a whistleblower. There are severe financial penalties at both an individual and corporate level.

22. Do whistleblowers have rights?

Yes, as detailed.

23. How do I report whistleblowing?

We provide our clients with 5 reporting channels. Read more about reporting here.

24. Can I be sued for whistleblowing?

Yes, but in rare circumstances such as only if it is proven you made a vexatious complaint.

25. What is the purpose of the whistleblower protection act?

To provide protections for whistleblowers and to encourage them to report wrongdoing, illegal acts and an improper state of affairs in the company they work in. In Australia, we have the Corporations Act which covers public and large private companies. For government departments and agencies, it is called a Public Interest Disclosure and is covered under various State and Territory PID Acts.

26. What are the whistleblower laws in Australia?

See above.

27. Is anonymous reporting really anonymous?

When an organisation uses a secure technology solution to support their whistleblower program. Such as the platform we use to support our Speak Up Hotline programs.

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