By now it’s common knowledge that from 1 January 2020 public companies, large private proprietary companies, corporate trustees of superannuation funds and some not-for-profits in Australia will be required by law to have a whistleblower policy.
This has improved legal protection for whistleblowers but it will take more than changes to the law for people to believe that they will be protected if they decide to become whistleblowers.
Our experience with whistleblowing programs
When we run our Risk Culture Assessment for clients we consistently find that staff have a very low level of trust in their organisation’s whistleblower policy and procedures.
Two statements in the Assessment focus on whistleblowing, asking staff whether they think –
- the organisation has an excellent whistleblower program and
- if they became a whistleblower they would be properly protected
Without fail, responses show that staff believe it’s important for both statements to be true in their own organisation but they don’t trust their whistleblowing program and don’t believe they would be protected if they became a whistleblower.
We have been running Risk Culture Assessments for over 10 years and this lack of trust has been evident throughout.
There is a challenge here for organisations not only to meet the new legislative requirements but more importantly to build the trust of staff so they come to believe the program is excellent and that they would be properly protected if they became a whistleblower.
An excellent whistleblower program is a terrific safety valve for any organisation and a vital part of effective governance and risk management.
The Law v The Market
It’s easy to find out if the law requires your organisation to have a whistleblower program.
Even if your organisation is exempt, our view is that there will be market pressure for every organisation to introduce, socialise and maintain an effective whistleblower program.
People want to work for a socially responsible organisation that genuinely wants to hear about any inappropriate behaviour and act ethically to stop it.
Investors also want their assets protected against destruction of value by poor conduct. Increasingly, partners in supply and distribution chains are looking for similar protection.
Tips to Improve Trust
Griffith University, in partnership with others, has produced an excellent guide on how to improve your whistleblowing policy and practice –
More information about legislative requirements is available from ASIC.
Check your overall Risk Culture
Improving whistleblower programs and practices is very important but only one aspect of all the elements that ensure a positive Risk Culture that supports the achievement of objectives and protection of assets and stakeholders.
Would you like to strengthen the Risk Culture in your organisation? Contact us to find out how.
About the Authors
John P Dawson & Carmel McDonald are the co-owners of Dawson McDonald Consulting. They’ve been running Risk Culture Assessments since 2008 to help clients protect their organisations and build resilience. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out their book which Risk Managers will find helpful BUILD Your Business.
“This is an impressive and very readable book! … I can speak with the experience of running a postgraduate degree in Risk Management. This book is one I wish I had had for the students… mature-age managers. It would have shown them … how to build a trusting, supportive team and empower it with an understanding of the culture surrounding them. That is, get their job done harmoniously!”
Dr John Browne – Past convenor of the Graduate Diploma of Risk Management and Master of Risk Management at Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.
References: Image – Shutterstock