Australia: What should be included in your whistleblower policy to protect employees?

Last Updated: 11 July 2019
Article by Stephen Millington

From July 1, Australian companies will be obliged to give protection to whistleblower employees, and have been given until the end of 2019 to institute a compliant and comprehensive whistleblower policy.

If you are a senior manager, are responsible for company wellbeing and culture, financial governance or have staff reporting directly to you, then it's likely you'll have to deal with a whistleblower complaint at some point in the future.

It could be a simple case of fraud, misappropriation or a behavioural complaint that you are able to swiftly address, or it could be a complex issues that unearths systemic problems within the organisation that requires a more long-term and thorough investigation to rectify.

In any case, there is a distinct set of steps that should be followed so that the matter — whether it be a one-off fraud case or a deep-seated systemic issue within the organisation — is dealt with to the satisfaction of the aggrieved or notifying party, while ensuring the continued viability of the company.

From July 1, Australian companies will be obliged to give protection to whistleblower employees, and have been given until the end of 2019 to institute a compliant and comprehensive whistleblower policy.

Failure to comply will be a criminal offence, and there are tough civil and criminal penalties for disclosing the identity or victimising a whistleblower. Furthermore, whistleblowers can sue their employer for compensation if they suffer detriment. These new laws should act as a sufficient motivation to compel corporate Australia to institute a rigorous whistleblower action plan.

However, there is no reason to be unduly alarmed at the scale of the new legal framework. If you follow the following steps, you will be putting yourself and the company on a strong footing to abide by any legal obligations arising from a whistleblower complaint.

  1. Get all the information you can from the whistleblower

Often it's not possible to control the mode of communication that the whistleblower uses, so if a call comes in, make sure to get as many details as possible on the spot. It's obviously impossible to extract additional information from an email complaint, but if you have the whistleblower on the line, you can ascertain the allegation/s in as much detail as possible, who was involved, the dates of the incidents, and any need for anonymity moving forward for the whistleblower.

  1. Establish a communication channel with the whistleblower

This is of the utmost importance as you will need to ensure the whistleblower feels their concerns are being heeded, while you gather the necessary information to progress the complaint. A whistleblower who feels listened to is also less likely to take their concerns public and escalate an issue that could have been handled internally.

Of course, the whistleblower may wish to remain anonymous and in that case, it's important to think about how you would establish an open communication channel, such as an anonymous email account, when drafting your whistleblower policy.

  1. Conduct a preliminary assessment of the complaint

In order to complete this preliminary assessment, you will need to be properly resourced with an adequate team. As most companies lack the requisite internal resources, you may wish to consider seeking external help to triage the complaint and determine the substance to the allegations on first blush.

It's also important to consider the parties connected to the allegations and ensure there is no conflict within the investigative team. Make sure you have a protocol regarding reporting lines and amendments to the reporting process should the complaint relate to a staffer usually tasked with responding to such allegations. This will ensure the reporting team is wholly independent.

  1. Set up clear investigation procedures

Not only should you establish reporting lines for the investigation team, but you should also go to great lengths to ensure the protection of the whistleblower and those that may be interviewed during the investigation process.

Ensure complete confidentiality of the details of the allegations and individuals named, but, most importantly, keep detailed records and notes of conversations and interactions in relation to the complaint.

This will come in handy if the allegations proceed to a criminal level or internal investigators are brought in.

  1. Ensure objectivity

The clear thread uniting all of these steps is the importance of objectivity. Once you are made aware of a whistleblower complaint, you should refrain from taking sides, playing judge or jury, or making assumptions based on personal opinions, or indeed, expressing your personal thoughts to the whistleblower.

In my many years of working with companies facing whistleblower complaints, the organisations that thrived in the long run were those able to deal with the allegation with a cool head, and follow a rigorous and transparent process.

Naturally, one of the clear advantages of the new whistleblower laws, whether you agree with their specific requirements or not, is that they compel Australian companies to prepare for allegations that have the potential to ruin their reputation and business, while addressing any internal issues or cases of fraud.

And that can only be a good thing.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions