When you hear the term “whistleblower”, you may think of the plot of a Hollywood thriller or a headline-grabbing law case. The truth is that most people who are whistleblowers may not even consider themselves to be that. They just see themselves as sensibly reporting when they know something is wrong and doing what seems the obviously right thing to do. They may have seen something in their workplace that just doesn’t add up, funds being misused or an issue being covered up. Most likely, they believe it’s their duty to speak out.
However, until this week, employees or their family members who blew the whistle in private sector businesses had almost no realistic employment protections and so had very good reason to fear reprisals. Speaking out could risk bullying or disciplinary action, or even dismissal with loss of reputation and career.
In recent times, the Royal Commissions into Abuse, Banking and Aged Care have shone a light onto many wrongdoings and cover-ups. This has highlighted just how crucial it is that all types of employees are able to speak out to report misconduct, without fear of reprisals – since it benefits all of us. Whistleblowers need to be protected from retaliation for just doing the right thing. People shouldn't have to put their careers on the line, which is why this new whistleblower legislation has been introduced from 1 July 2019.
The new legislation is intended to protect whistleblowers in the private sector from retaliation for blowing the whistle, as well as protecting their identities.
It’s unlawful to punish you with any civil, criminal or administrative penalty for blowing the whistle, so employees can’t be disciplined or dismissed for doing so, nor can suppliers’ contracts be terminated. The law has been extended to cover not only employees and officers of companies, but also suppliers, partners, business associates, and even their relatives or dependents.
One of the most important features of the new legislation, is you now have the right to remain anonymous if you choose. It is a criminal offence to reveal the identity of a whistleblower, without your consent, or even to disclose information that could readily identify you.
Samantha Mangwana, Legal Consultant at Shine Lawyers says: “I have acted for many whistleblowers over the last decade, and while the issues they have uncovered have varied enormously, the situations they find themselves in are strikingly familiar.
“All too often, my clients have faced reprisals at work simply for being responsible managers and escalating concerns through proper channels. This new legislation is long overdue, but it is a game changer. Finally, private sector whistleblowers will now have some genuine protections when they speak up.
“Be aware however, that the legislation is new and not yet well understood by business. It is sensible to take advice to ensure that you are properly covered if you plan to speak up, as well as if you find yourself facing reprisals.”
Shine Lawyers can help
At Shine Lawyers, our whistleblowing experts have acted for many brave individuals who have spoken out about wrongdoing. We are familiar with the risks and challenges, the repercussions and what may come next. Contact us to see how we can help you.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: October 16, 2019.