Whistleblower policy

INNOVATIVE MANUFACTURING CRC (ABN 24 607 527 499) (IMCRC) is committed to providing a healthy and safe working environment for its staff. The Whistleblower policy extends to all IMCRC staff, being all employees, contractors, consultants, representatives and Board members (collectively referred to as Staff for the purposes of this policy).

There are two attachments to this policy which set out a) the recommended process for Disclosing Persons and b) the recommended process for Eligible Recipients.

The purpose of this policy is to:

  • provide an understanding of what can be reported under this policy
  • demonstrate the importance IMCRC places on ensuring a safe and supportive environment where its staff are confident to raise breaches of internal rules or Disclosable Conduct
  • assist in creating a workplace culture that encourages staff to speak up about Disclosable Conduct
  • explain the processes for reporting Disclosable Conduct, including what happens when a report is made
  • provide an outline of how the protections are provided if a report is made
  • encourage disclosures of wrongdoing
  • help deter wrongdoing, in line with IMCRC’s risk management and governance framework
  • ensure people who disclose wrongdoing can do so safely, securely and with confidence that they will be protected and supported
  • ensure disclosures are dealt with appropriately and on a timely basis
  • provide transparency around IMCRC’s framework for receiving, handling and investigating disclosures
  • support IMCRC’s values, code of conduct and ethics policy
  • support IMCRC’s long-term sustainability and reputation, and
  • meet IMCRC’s legal and regulatory obligations,

This policy is not designed to circumvent the policies set out in IMCRC’s Staff Policies and Procedures Handbook.

IMCRC is committed to the highest standards of integrity and conduct. If you are aware of possible wrongdoing, IMCRC encourages you to disclose this information and will support you in doing so.

IMCRC is committed to encouraging the reporting of any instances of suspected unethical, illegal, fraudulent or undesirable conduct involving IMCRC’s businesses and provides protections and measures so that people who make a report can do so confidentially and without fear of intimidation, disadvantage or reprisal.

What is Whistleblowing?

In general terms, a definition of whistleblowing is the disclosure by organisation members (former or current) of illegal, immoral or illegitimate practices under the control of their employers to persons that may be able to effect action. Whistleblowing concerns protecting people who act in the public interest when disclosing serious wrongdoing relating to issues or information regarding corruption, misconduct and maladministration.

Who and what does this policy apply to?

This policy applies to and provides protections to Protected Whistleblowers. You are a Protected Whistleblower and entitled to protection under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (Corporations Act) and, if applicable, under the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth) (Taxation Administration Act) if:

  • you are an Eligible Whistleblower; and
  • you have disclosed (or intend to disclose) a Disclosable Conduct matter to an Eligible Recipient or to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) or another entity prescribed under the Corporations Act.

You will also be entitled to protection as a Protected Whistleblower if you get advice from a legal practitioner on the operation of whistleblowing protection laws.

An Eligible Whistleblower is a person who is, or has been, any of the following:

  • an officer or employee of IMCRC (this includes current and former employees who are permanent, part-time, fixed-term or temporary, interns, secondees, managers and directors)
  • a person who supplies goods or services to IMCRC or an employee of a person who supplies goods or services to IMCRC (whether paid or unpaid) – this could include current and former volunteers, contractors, consultants, service providers and business partners
  • a person who is an associate of IMCRC- for example, a director or company secretary of IMCRC or a related body corporate of IMCRC
  • a relative, dependent or dependent of the spouse of any person referred to in this definition of Eligible Whistleblower.

Disclosable Conduct

A disclosure will concern Disclosable Conduct (also referred to as a Disclosable or Reportable matter) if an Eligible Whistleblower has reasonable grounds to suspect that the information being disclosed is about:

  • a breach of financial management
  • improper conduct including dishonesty, fraud, theft, breach of duty, breach of trust
  • bribery and corruption
  • providing false or misleading information
  • misuse of company resources
  • unauthorised payments
  • unethical behavior
  • unsafe work practice
  • breach of IMCRC Staff Policies and Procedures
  • victimisation, harassment or workplace bullying
  • discrimination (sex, age, gender, race, or religion)
  • contravention of Modern Slavery legislation
  • a breach of the Taxation AdministrationAct or improper conduct in relation to the tax affairs, in relation to IMCRC.

Disclosable or Reportable Conduct is not:

  • a difference of opinion about a policy or procedure adopted by IMCRC in the Staff Policies and Procedures Handbook
  • a matter that relates to an employment dispute with IMCRC (Refer to Personal work-related grievance)

Personal work-related grievances

Personal work-related grievances that do not involve a detriment caused to you as a Protected Whistleblower (or a threat of detriment) are not Disclosable Conduct and are not protected under the Corporations Act or Taxation Administration Act.

  • A personal work-related grievance is one that relates to your current or former employment that has implications for you personally but does not have significant implications for IMCRC.
  • An example of a work-related grievance that is not protected by law could include if you believe you have missed out on a promotion that you deserve or if you do not like the managerial style of your supervisor.

However, a work-related grievance may still qualify for protection under the law if (for example):

  • it is a mixed report that includes information about Disclosable Conduct (as well as a work-related grievance)
  • IMCRC has broken employment or other laws which are punishable by imprisonment for 12+ months or acted in a way that is a threat to public safety
  • the disclosure relates to information that suggests misconduct that goes further than the Whistleblower’s personal circumstances; or
  • the Whistleblower suffers from or is threatened with detriment for making a disclosure.

Reporting Disclosable Conduct

Each staff member has a role and responsibility in ensuring IMCRC is run ethically and in accordance with IMCRC Staff Policies and Procedures. If you have any known or suspected concerns about unacceptable practices, misconduct, anything improper or the appropriateness of conduct (i.e. concern about a Reportable matter), you should make a disclosure about it. Where an issue of Disclosable Conduct is identified, the matter should be raised as soon as possible with the people responsible for handling matters (refer below). Reports can be made in person or by telephone, post or email. Reports can be made within business hours or outside business hours. If at any time, you are not sure about whether to make a protected disclosure, you can get independent legal advice. Any discussions you have with a lawyer will be protected under this policy and under law. If an employee is concerned about making a report, the report should be made anonymously.

Who to report a matter to?

If reporting a suspicion of wrongdoing, first check with your designated manager or IMCRC’s CEO. If you do not wish to raise the matter with either your manager or the CEO, you should consider raising the matter with the Whistleblower Investigation Officer (WIO). If you do not feel safe to speak to any of the reporting channels noted above, and you wish to be protected by the organisation as a part of raising your matter, you can report your matter to the Whistleblower Protection Officer (WPO) as described in this policy.

The WIO is IMCRC’s representative responsible for receiving whistleblower disclosures of wrongdoing and overseeing its investigation and resolution. The WIO must (after reasonable assessment):

  • be satisfied that action taken in response to the inquiry/investigation is appropriate to the circumstances and ensure that all investigations are carried out in line with the principle of procedural fairness.
  • appoint an alternate WPO to provide support to the Whistleblower if necessary.

Disclosures should be made to people who are Eligible Recipients of Disclosable Conduct of such a disclosure, to ensure the discloser qualifies for protection. Eligible Recipients include also directors and officers or senior managers of IMCRC and persons authorised by IMCRC to receive disclosures, such as the WIO or the WPO (contact details are set out below). You are welcome to make a disclosure to any Eligible Recipient at any time.

 

Channel Contact Details
Whistleblower Investigation Officer (WIO):  Susie Reece Jones
FAL Lawyers
(03) 9642 2252
susan.reecejones@fal-lawyers.com.au
Whistleblower Protection Officer (WPO): Kate Norton
IMCRC HR Consultant
(0417 007 944)
hrcollaboration3122@gmail.com
Senior Manager (CEO): David Chuter
CEO and Managing Director
(0413 884 267)
david.chuter@imcrc.org

 

Other designated bodies that can receive disclosures of a Reportable matter are:

  • ASIC
  • APRA
  • the Commissioner of Taxation, or
  • another Commonwealth authority prescribed by law.

What happens

Should you report a Disclosable matter under this policy, you should provide as much factual information as possible, i.e: dates, times, location, individuals involved, witnesses, evidence, documents and any general information which may be helpful to assist IMCRC in determining what action may be required. IMCRC will consider the quality of the information that is reported. Any information provided may be used in an investigation or other appropriate action. All investigations will be conducted in a manner that is procedurally fair, confidential, conducted without bias and in a timely manner.

Examples of actions that IMCRC may take in response to an investigation may include:

  • a satisfactory explanation in relation to the matter
  • the matter is resolved by speaking to one or more parties
  • the matter is recorded and monitored going forward
  • a decision is made to investigate (internally or via independent, external investigators)
  • the matter is referred to an agency, or
  • a combination of the above.

If appropriate, you will be contacted and advised of what action will be undertaken by IMCRC. If an allegation is made in good faith, but is not confirmed by the investigation, no action will be taken against the person raising the misconduct concern. If IMCRC determines that the information disclosed does not amount to a Disclosable matter, the Eligible Whistleblower will be, if practicable, informed of that decision. In some instances, reports may not be able to be responded to, for example, because they are anonymous reports. If an investigation is conducted, it will:

  • follow a fair process
  • be conducted in as timely a manner as the circumstances allow; and
  • be independent of the person(s) about whom an allegation has been made.

Provided there are no restrictions or other reasonable bases for doing so, people against whom an allegation has been made will be informed of the allegation and will have an opportunity to respond to any allegation. That is, IMCRC will take steps to ensure fair treatment of any person who is the subject of the Disclosable matter report as well as the Protected Whistleblower.

Investigations will be conducted promptly and fairly with due regard for the nature of the allegation and the rights of the people involved in the investigation. IMCRC recognises the importance of balancing the rights of the Eligible Whistleblower and the rights of people against whom a report is made in ensuring fairness.

Protection for Whistleblowers

In accordance with the Corporations Act, a whistleblower who qualifies for protection is entitled to:

  • protection of identity
  • protection from detrimental acts or omissions, such as dismissal or discrimination
  • compensation or other remedies if loss, damage, or injury is experienced
  • protection from civil, criminal and administrative liability.

Confidentiality

IMCRC is committed to ensuring support and protection from reprisal if a matter is raised under this Whistleblower Policy. IMCRC will not tolerate retaliation against a whistleblower.

Disclosures from Protected Whistleblowers will be treated confidentially and sensitively.

Once a report is received, the Eligible Recipient will make sure immediate steps are taken to protect the identity of the Protected Whistleblower. This will include redacting the name and position of the Protected Whistleblower from any written record of the report and making sure appropriate document security is implemented.

It is illegal for a person to identify Protected Whistleblowers or disclose information that is likely to lead to their identification. If you are a Protected Whistleblower, your identity and position (or any other information which would be likely to identify you) will only be shared if:

  • you consent to the information being shared
  • the disclosure is to a recipient permitted by law such as the Commissioner of Taxation or Australian Federal Police; or
  • the disclosure is otherwise allowed or required by law (for example, disclosure to a Lawyer of the IMCRC to receive legal advice relating to the law on whistleblowing).

In addition, information likely to identify an Eligible Whistleblower, may be shared if it is reasonably necessary for the purposes of an In this circumstance all reasonable steps will be taken to reduce the risk that you will be identified.

Protection against Detrimental Treatment

It is illegal for a person to engage in conduct that causes (or threatens) detrimental treatment to a Protected Whistleblower in the belief or suspicion that a person has made, may make, proposes to make or could make a report of a Disclosable matter and where that belief or suspicion is a reason for the conduct.

Detrimental treatment could include dismissal, demotion, harassment, damage to your reputation, discrimination, disciplinary action, bias, threats or other unfavourable treatment connected with making a disclosure as a Protected Whistleblower.

IMCRC will seek to ensure that Protected Whistleblowers are not subjected to detrimental treatment as a result of making (or intending to make) a disclosure under this policy.

To protect Protected Whistleblowers from detrimental treatment IMCRC will:

  • make an assessment of the risk of detriment against a Protected Whistleblower as soon as possible after receiving a disclosure of a Disclosable matter
  • make sure IMCRC management are aware of their responsibilities to maintain the confidentiality of a Protected Whistleblower, address the risks of detriment and ensure fairness when managing the performance of, or taking other management action relating to, a Protected Whistleblower; and
  • take practical action, as necessary, to protect a Protected Whistleblower from the risk of detriment and intervene if detriment has already occurred.

If a Protected Whistleblower believes that they have been subject to detrimental treatment, they should inform an Eligible Recipient immediately.

Other Protections for Protected Whistleblowers

Protected Whistleblowers are protected from civil, criminal or administrative liability (including disciplinary action) for making reports of a Disclosable matter. No contractual right (including under an employment contract) can be exercised against a Protected Whistleblower to stop them disclosing a Disclosable matter. If you are a Protected Whistleblower and the disclosure is to an Eligible Recipient or other designated body as set out above or is a public interest disclosure or emergency disclosure, the information you disclose also cannot be used against you in criminal proceedings or in proceedings for the imposition of a penalty (except if the proceedings are in respect of the falsity of the information).

Eligible Whistleblowers may also be entitled to seek compensation and other remedies through the courts if IMCRC fails to protect the Eligible Whistleblower from detriment and the Eligible Whistleblower suffers loss or damage.

Communications with the Protected Whistleblower

IMCRC will ensure that, provided the claim was not submitted anonymously, the Protected Whistleblower is kept informed of the outcomes of the investigation of their allegations. This will be subject to the considerations of privacy of those against whom allegations are made and considerations of confidentiality affecting IMCRC.

  • If the Protected Whistleblower is not an employee of IMCRC, the Protected Whistleblower will be kept informed of the investigative outcomes (subject to privacy considerations as above), once the Protected Whistleblower has agreed in writing to maintain confidentiality in relation to any information provided to them regarding a report made by them.
  • Anonymous reports of alleged Disclosable Conduct are accepted however they may have limitations on an ability for IMCRC to undertake a proper investigation. Limitations may include an inability to provide feedback on the outcome and/or to gather additional particulars to assist an investigation.
  • If and where applicable, IMCRC may make available support services to a Protected Whistleblower such as confidential counselling or flexible work arrangements.

Any breach of this Policy may result in disciplinary action, including dismissal from IMCRC.

False Reports

A Protected Whistleblower will still qualify for protection for a disclosure even if their disclosure turns out to be incorrect. However, anyone who knowingly makes a false report of Disclosable Conduct, or who otherwise fails to act honestly with reasonable belief in respect of the report may be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal.

Availability of Policy

This policy is provided as part of the IMCRC Staff Policies and Procedures Handbook. IMCRC staff are encouraged to make themselves familiar with the policy.

Endorsement

IMCRC’s Board is committed to this policy and its implementation and to ensuring an enjoyable, healthy and safe working environment.

Released on: 16th December 2019 and updated on 25th March 2020

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