Whistleblower Policy - Australia
Robert Walters (Company) is firmly committed to maintaining the highest standards of ethics, honesty, openness and accountability. It recognises that all of its staff have an important role to play in achieving this goal.
This Policy is intended to conform with the whistleblower protection provisions in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (the Act), which were expanded on 1 July 2019 to afford greater protection to whistleblowers. To the extent of any inconsistency between this Policy and the Robert Walters Group Whistleblowing Policy, this Policy will prevail.
This Whistleblower Policy (the Policy) is intended to encourage and enable employees of Robert Walters and external stakeholders to raise genuine concerns or disclose information which the individual believes shows malpractice or wrongdoing within the Company’s activities, in an effective and timely manner, without fear of reprisal and in the knowledge that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated as appropriate.
This Policy provides guidance on the following:
- who can make disclosures under this Policy;
- what disclosures can and cannot be made under this Policy;
- how an individual can raise a concern;
- what will happen after an individual raises a concern; and
- what protections an individual can expect to receive if a disclosure is made.
Who does this Policy apply to?
This Policy applies to the following eligible whistleblowers (Disclosers):
- former and current Company officers and employees, including permanent, part-time, fixed-term, maximum-term and temporary workers;
- former and current Company suppliers (service providers and business partners);
- Company associates (including related body corporates and their officers); and
- relatives, dependents, spouses, or dependents of a spouse of any of the above.
What can be reported under this Policy?
A Discloser can report on a matter where there are reasonable grounds to suspect misconduct, or an improper state of affairs or circumstances in relation to the Company, its employees, officers or any related body corporate (Eligible Disclosure), including:
- an offence or contravention of any applicable legislation or regulations;
- a criminal act;
- modern slavery, forced labour or human trafficking;
- bribery and corruption;
- financial fraud or mis-management;
- conduct which represents danger to health and safety;
- conduct which represents danger to the public or the financial system;
- adverse behaviour (including breaches of the Company’s policies);
- victimisation of a Discloser making an Eligible Disclosure;
- deliberate covering up of information concerning the above.
Supporting information must be provided when reporting a concern. Mere allegations will not qualify as Eligible Disclosures under the Act.
What is not covered by this Policy?
This Policy is not a substitute for the Company’s Grievance Policy and Procedure. Nor is it a channel for staff to raise matters in relation to their current or former employment, such as complaints of bullying, harassment or disciplinary action. These matters have implications for the Discloser personally (rather than the Company) and are likely to be dealt with under other Company policies, such as the Equal Opportunity Policy, Diversity Policy or Anti-Harassment Policy, which should be referred to.
Eligible Disclosures must be submitted in writing (email or post), by phone or in person to one of the following individuals able to receive Disclosures that qualify for protection (Eligible Recipients):
CEO - APAC - Phone: 02 8289 3100
HR Director - ANZ - Phone: 03 8628 2100
It is important that you notify an Eligible Recipient to gain protection under the Act.
To Level 23, Queen & Collins Tower, 376-390 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000 (marked “Private & Confidential” and to the attention of one of the Eligible Recipients).
Eligible Disclosures made anonymously at www.robertwalters.com.au/whistleblower-policy.html will be protected under the Act. However, due to difficulties of investigating reports made anonymously, it may not be possible to fully investigate such Disclosures, so individuals are encouraged to come forward.
Where possible, anonymous Disclosers are encouraged to maintain two-way communication with the Company throughout the investigation. There is no requirement to answer questions that could reveal the Discloser’s identity. All Disclosures will be treated in the strictest of confidence and afforded protection under the Act.
Disclosures to Regulatory Bodies and External Parties
This Policy is intended to provide individuals with an internal mechanism for raising concerns with the Company. The Company hopes that any Discloser making use of this Policy will be satisfied with any action taken and should not find it necessary to alert anyone externally. However, if a Discloser is not satisfied with the action taken, or if they otherwise feel unable to raise a concern within the Company, the Act provides protection for individuals who make Eligible Disclosures to certain external bodies prescribed by the Act (Regulatory Bodies).
Regulatory Bodies able to receive Eligible Disclosures include:
- ASIC (refer Information Sheet 239 – “How ASIC Handles Whistleblower Reports”);
- APRA (https://www.apra.gov.au/become-a-whistleblower-and-make-a-public-interest-disclosure); and
- other Commonwealth bodies prescribed by regulation.
- You can also make disclosure about tax affairs to the ATO and qualify for protection.
Emergency Disclosures and Public Interest Disclosures
Disclosures may, in certain circumstances, be made to Commonwealth, State or Territory Parliamentarians or to professional journalists and qualify for protection.
Public Interest Disclosures (i.e. where you have reasonable grounds to believe your disclosure is in the public interest) and Emergency Disclosures (i.e. where you have reasonable grounds to believe that your information concerns a substantial and imminent danger to the health or safety of one or more people or the natural environment) must have previously been made to ASIC, APRA, or a prescribed body and written notice needs to have been provided to the body to which the disclosure was made.
In the case of a public interest disclosure, at least 90 days must have passed since the previous disclosure.
It is strongly advised that independent legal advice be sought prior to making an emergency disclosure or public interest disclosure to ensure you are covered by the whistleblower protections in the Act.
Disclosures to Legal Practitioners
Eligible Disclosures made to a legal practitioner for the purposes of obtaining legal advice or legal representation in relation to the operation of this Policy or the Act are protected by the Act (even if the legal practitioner determines that the disclosure does not relate to an Eligible Disclosure).
After Raising a Concern
All concerns raised will be taken seriously and investigated to the full extent possible.
Upon receipt of a disclosure under this Policy, an Investigation Officer will be appointed who will arrange a meeting to take down a written summary of the Discloser’s concern (with Discloser's consent). Where possible, a copy of the meeting notes will be provided to the Discloser following the meeting.
If the Investigation Officer determines the disclosure is an Eligible Disclosure under the Act, a full investigation will follow. The Company will follow fair process and exercise impartiality in respect of both the Discloser who made the Eligible Disclosure and any individual about whom such a disclosure has been made. Where possible, the Company will provide the Discloser with regular updates throughout the investigation and maintain anonymity if required.
A person about whom an Eligible Disclosure has been made will be informed by the Investigation Officer of a disclosure and will have an opportunity to respond to any allegations.
The Investigation Officer will summarise findings in a report supported by evidence and information received from all parties. The method of documenting and reporting the investigation will depend upon the nature of the disclosure. If appropriate, a copy of the final report may be provided to the Discloser and any person against whom the Eligible Disclosure was made.
The Investigation Officer will provide a final report to an officer of the Company who will make a decision about appropriate action to be taken against any person about whom an Eligible Disclosure has been made. The Discloser’s confidentiality will be maintained at all times.
The Investigation Officer will aim to conduct an investigation within two weeks. However, the Company cannot warrant that it will comply with timeframes because an investigation may be influence by various factors that will affect timeframes, such as seriousness of a disclosure, amount of information available and availability of resources.
A Discloser may bring a support person to any of the meetings with the Investigation Officer. The Discloser must inform the Investigative Officer of such decision and provide details of a support person prior to any meetings.
Legal Protection for Disclosers
A Discloser making an Eligible Disclosure will qualify for certain protections under the Act. The protections apply even if the disclosure is not substantiated.
Identity Protection (Confidentiality)
Subject to some exceptions, it is unlawful for the Company to identify a whistleblower or to disclose information that is likely to lead to the identification of a whistleblower whose identity is protected by the obligation of confidentiality.
Information reported under this Policy may only be disclosed without the Discloser’s consent if:
- the information does not include the Discloser’s identity;
- the Company has taken all reasonable steps to reduce the risk that the Discloser will be identified from the information; and
- it is reasonably necessary for investigating the issues raised in the Eligible Disclosure.
The Discloser may also provide express consent to the disclosure of his or her identity.
Concerns or a grievance about the Company’s handling of the confidentiality of a Discloser’s identity should be raised with:
- one of the Eligible Recipients;
- a legal practitioner; or
- the relevant regulator (ASIC, APRA or ATO).
Identity protection measures
When dealing with an Eligible Disclosure, all personal information of the Discloser will be removed. Only appropriately trained Company staff will have dealings with or access to documents (whether paper or electronic) concerning Eligible Disclosures. All such staff will be subject to contractual obligations to maintain confidentiality.
Disclosers who make an Eligible Disclosure will receive immunity from civil, criminal, and administrative liability (including disciplinary action). The Company must not take any enforcement action against a Discloser on the basis of their disclosure.
The Company cannot grant an immunity for any misconduct a Discloser has engage in that is revealed in an Eligible Disclosure.
Any provision in an agreement or contract between an employee of the Company and the Company which would prevent the employee from whistleblowing is deemed void.
Disclosers must not suffer any detrimental treatment as a result of reporting an Eligible Disclosure. Detrimental treatment includes:
- dismissal of an employee;
- injury of an employee in his or her employment;
- alteration of an employee’s position or duties to his or her disadvantage;
- discrimination between an employee and other employees of the Company;
- harassment or intimidation of a person;
- harm or injury to a person, including psychological harm;
- damage to a person’s property;
- damage to a person’s reputation;
- damage to a person’s business or financial position; and
- any other damage to a person connected with raising a concern.
Company staff must not threaten or retaliate against Disclosers in any way. Anyone involved in such conduct will be subject to disciplinary action, which could include dismissal or termination of employment.
A Discloser who made an Eligible Disclosure may seek compensation and other remedies if:
a) they suffer loss, damage or injury because of a disclosure; and
b) the entity in relation to which the disclosure was made failed to take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence to prevent the detrimental conduct.
Independent legal advice should be sought where a Discloser considers seeking remedies from any individual or the Company.
Individuals who raise a concern in good faith, which is shown to be unsubstantiated by the investigation, will not have action taken against them. However, frivolous or malicious allegations, the making of an allegation for personal gain or making allegations known to be untrue may result in Company taking legal action against the individual.
Breach of the Policy
Any breach of this Policy will be taken seriously and may be regarded as misconduct, leading to disciplinary action. An individual may also be exposed to criminal or civil liability for breaching the Act.
Policy Availability – Internal Employees
A separate policy for internal Company employees is available on the Company intranet. If the policy is not accessible, contact internal HR department.
Review of the Policy
This Policy will be reviewed at least every two years or earlier to ensure it complies will all relevant regulatory and legislative requirements. This Policy may be amended, withdrawn or replaced from time to time at the sole discretion of the Company.
Owned by: Company Human Resources department
Last updated: December 2019