ASIC Commissioner Sean Hughes

The corporate regulator has urged CEOs of public companies, large proprietary companies and trustees of registrable superannuation entities (RSEs) to review their whistleblower policies and make sure they comply with the law after a sample check of 102 policies revealed the marjority fell short of the relevant requirements.

This week ASIC sent a letter to applicable CEOs reminding them of their entity’s obligation to have a policy that reflects the strengthened whistleblower protection regime that started on 1 July 2019.

The letter also identified areas where sample policies fell short and highlighted what entities can do to improve their policies.

“Whistleblowers help companies and RSEs identify problems and issues that they need to address to comply with the law and improve their performance,” said ASIC commissioner Sean Hughes. “Whistleblower policies are essential for encouraging potential whistleblowers to speak up.”

As per the Corporations Act, relevant entities must have a whistleblower guide that covers information about the protections available to whistleblowers, how the entity will support and protect the whistleblower, how the entity will investigate disclosures and how it will protect both employee whistleblowers and employees who are the subject of disclosure.

According to ASIC, not enough of those relevant entities have updated their guides to reflect the rules.

“We call on CEOs and RSE trustees to discuss this letter within your organisation and to think about the culture of speaking up in your workplace,” Hughes said. “If the issues we observed from our review are present in your policy, we expect you to address and correct them without delay.”

ASIC said it will continue to monitor compliance with the whistleblower policies. The regulator also plans to conduct a further review of whistleblower policies in the future.

“We will consider the full range of regulatory tools available, including enforcement action, where we identify non-compliance,” ASIC stated.

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