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WHISTLEBLOWING POLICY & PROCEDURES

 EFFECTIVE DATE

30 December 2019                             

  1. INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE

 

DanceSurance is committed to maintaining the highest ethical standards and fosters an organisational culture of transparency and honesty and will not tolerate misconduct or wrongdoing of any kind amongst its staff, directors, contractors, partners and suppliers. Corporate cultures of silence, which allow wrongdoing to go undetected, are seen as contributing to increasing  local and international corporate failures.  A regime protecting Whistleblowers is seen as part of the answer to combating this because it encourages reporting of contraventions by employees.

The Board and General Manager are responsible for this Whistleblower policy as part of its broader risk management and corporate governance framework and encourages anyone who has a concern or suspicion of any wrongdoing by DanceSurance or its employees, contractors or service providers to speak up.

This policy sets out the approach DanceSurance will take to:

  1. embed and execute the Whistleblowing Framework within the business and
  2. how it will protect Whistleblowers who report/ disclose suspicions or concerns from detriment and
  3. how DanceSurance will investigate and manage disclosures.

All Whistleblower disclosures will be kept confidential and secure unless DanceSurance is legally required to provide details to authorities in any criminal matter.

 

  1. AIM AND SCOPE

This policy applies to all employees, contractors, volunteers, representatives and directors of DanceSurance as well as any third parties or service providers that DanceSurance engages with.     One of the objectives of this policy is to help to uncover misconduct that might not otherwise be detected.

This policy aims to:

  • assist and encourage disclosers to report wrongdoings and misconduct
  • help deter wrongdoings of any DanceSurance employee, contractor, volunteer or director
  • ensure individuals 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 DanceSurance’s approach when receiving, handling and investigating disclosures.

This policy should be read in conjunction with the following DanceSurance documents:

  • Privacy Policy
  • Complaints Handling Policy
  • Conflicts of Interest Policy
  • Employee Code of Conduct
  • Bullying and Harassment Policy

This policy is available on the DanceSurance Website and is included in the Employee Handbook.

 

  1. WHAT IS WHISTLEBLOWING

Whistleblowing is the disclosure (reporting) by a person, usually an employee, to the public or to those in authority, of mismanagement, corruption, illegality, inappropriate conduct, or some other wrongdoing.

Disclosure / reporting of information is encouraged if the discloser has reasonable grounds to suspect that the information concerns misconduct, or an improper state of affairs or circumstances.

 

  1. KEY TERMS

a. Disclosures - Whistleblowing reports are generally called disclosures.

b. Eligible Recipients – include a DanceSurance officer, senior manager, auditor, or actuary or alternatively ASIC (or APRA if relevant).

c. Misconduct - is defined in s9 of the Corporations Act 2001 and includes ‘fraud, negligence, default, breach of trust and breach of duty’.

d. Improper State of Affairs - an improper state of affairs or circumstances’ may not involve unlawful conduct in relation to the entity or a related body corporate of the entity but may indicate a systemic issue that the relevant regulator should know about to properly perform its functions. It may also relate to business behaviour and practices that may cause consumer harm.

e. Reasonable grounds to suspect - is based on the objective reasonableness of the reasons for the discloser’s suspicion. It ensures that a discloser’s motive for making a disclosure, or their personal opinion of the person(s) involved, does not prevent them from qualifying for protection. In practice, a mere allegation with no supporting information is not likely to be considered as having ‘reasonable grounds to suspect’. However, a discloser does not need to prove their allegations.

f Reasonable grounds for reporting - The Whistleblower must have genuine and reasonable grounds to suspect misconduct or a wrongdoing to be able to make a report and benefit from the Whistleblower protections.

g. Disclosable matters – involves information about an entity that the discloser has reasonable grounds to suspect or has concerns of misconduct, wrongdoing or an improper state of affairs or circumstances. Information that indicates a significant risk to public safety or the stability of, or confidence in, the financial system is also a disclosable matter, even if it does not involve a breach of a particular law and should be reported.

 h. Protected Disclosures – These are reports made by Eligible Whistleblowers about unlawful or unethical conduct. This can be actual or suspected and must be accompanied by evidence that has led to this disclosure.

 i.Victimisation - Victimisation is when someone 'subjects or threatens to subject the other person to any detriment' overtly or covertly.

 

  1. TYPES OF WRONGDOING (DISCLOSABLE MATTERS)

A Whistleblower is entitled to protection under the Corporations Act if they make a qualifying disclosure to an eligible recipient.

A qualifying disclosure involves reporting conduct by an officer or employee of DanceSurance that believes or suspects that a form of misconduct, improper state of affairs or circumstances, or breach of the law has occurred.  Generally the following types of wrongdoings/ conduct will be considered qualifying disclosures:

a. Contravention of or an offence against a provision of any of the following:

i. the Corporations Act;

ii .the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001;

iii. the Banking Act 1959;

iv. the Financial Sector (Collection of Data) Act 2001;

v. the Insurance Act 1973;

vi. the Life Insurance Act 1995;

vii. the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009;

viii. the SIS Act;

ix. an instrument made under an Act referred to in RG 270.54(a)(i)–RG 270.54(a)(viii);

x. the Taxation Administration Act

b. an offence against any other law of the Commonwealth that is punishable by imprisonment for a period of 12 months or more;

c. represents a danger to the public or the financial system; or

d. is prescribed by regulation,

e. fraud, money laundering or misappropriation of funds

f. illegal conduct such as theft, dealing in or use of illicit drugs, violence or threatened violence and criminal damage against property,

g. offering or accepting a bribe

h. financial irregularities,

i. failure to comply with or breach of, legal or regulatory requirements and,

j. engaging in or threatening to engage in detrimental conduct against a person who has made a disclosure or is believed or suspected to have made, or be planning to make, a disclosure.

k. Significant misconduct by the board or management.

 

  1. ELIGIBLE WHISTLEBLOWERS

 A Whistleblower is a person who comes forward and reports on any wrongdoing which they suspect or know is happening in the whole organisation or in a specific department.

They can be a current or past an employee, contractor, service provider, underwriter or a supplier who becomes aware of or suspects illegal activities or wrongdoing.

The topic of the report should address one of the Disclosable Matters in section 5.

Whistleblowers can also be known as disclosers.

 

  1. REPORTING

This policy does not prevent employees or other Whistleblowers from reporting wrongdoings and misconduct to a regulator, however DanceSurance would appreciate that any wrongdoing be disclosed the DanceSurance Whistleblowing Officer first before being reported externally, unless the Whistleblowing Officer is under suspicion.   This will allow DanceSurance to investigate and protect Whistleblowers in accordance with this policy.  If the Whistleblowing Officer is under suspicion, then the disclosure can be made to an eligible recipient or a regulator.

All persons making a report are assured that in making a report they will not be personally disadvantaged by dismissal, demotion, subject to harassment, discrimination or current or future bias. The person making the report will be kept informed of the progress of the investigation if DanceSurance has contact information for them.

DanceSurance encourages reporting as early as possible. It is not expected that a Whistleblower will be an expert on the law and DanceSurance discourages anyone conducting their own investigation. It is also important that any suspects are not made aware of detection, suspicion or reporting of their behaviour in order to ensure that evidence is not tampered with.

Where there is doubt about whether a disclosure falls within this Policy, you may discuss it informally and confidentially with the Risk and Compliance Manager first.

       7.1 How to make a report

Reports should be made to the DanceSurance Whistleblowing Officer or an Eligible Recipient and can be made either verbally or in writing.

However, if a Whistleblower is not comfortable to make a report to  DanceSurance,  reports can be made to:

  • a regulatory body such as ASIC, APRA or AFCA
  • police,
  • legal practitioners
  • parliamentarian

7 .2 Anonymous Reporting

 Disclosures should be addressed to the Whistleblowing Officer and can be anonymous.

Anonymous disclosures will not be contacted further regarding the progress or outcome of the disclosure unless a pseudonym is supplied with contact details.   This will permit DanceSurance to maintain contact with the Whistleblower should they request it.

Please note that email disclosures may not be able to be anonymous as the email address may be tracible back to the Whistleblower.  DanceSurance therefore provides several forms of reporting mechanisms such as by letter, email or telephone call.

All Whistleblowers will have their identity protected if they are eligible under this policy, however confidentiality will be maintained for all individuals who make a report, unless DanceSurane is legally bound to make a disclosure to authorities.

      7.3 Whistleblowing officer

The DanceSurance Whistleblowing Officer is Nicole Walravens who is the Senior Account Broker and 2IC at DanceSurance.

Please address all Whistleblowing disclosures to the “Whistleblowing Officer”.  Disclosures can be reported through one of the following mechanisms:

 

Email: Please add Whistleblowing email here
Telephone: Please add direct number here
Postal Address: PO Box 4408,

Knox City Centre,

Victoria 3152

         7.4 Eligible recipients

The following DanceSurance employees and senior officers are considered eligible recipients at DanceSurance:

  1. General Manager
  2. Whistleblowing Officer
  3. Company auditors
  4. Directors
  5. DanceSurance’s legal representatives

7.5 Regulatory bodies and other external parties

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) will also receive information relating to Australian firms. Information regarding their processes and protections afforded to whistleblowers can be found on their website at:

https://asic.gov.au/about-asic/contact-us/how-to-complain/tip-offs-information-of-concern-and-reports-of-misconduct-video-transcript/

 

  1. Whistleblower Support and Protections

 Whistleblower protections are the protections provided to Eligible Whistleblowers to enable them to come forward to report misconduct without fear of retribution or personal detriment.

DanceSurane will in practice:

  • protect the confidentiality of a Whistleblower’s identity; and
  • protect and support disclosers from detrimental acts or omissions.

 

      8.1 Protections

 A person is protected as an Eligible Whistleblower under this policy if they are:

  1. an officer or
  2. an employee of DanceSurance or
  3. a contractor or their employee who has a contract to supply goods or services to the company
  4. Insured/ Client.

To qualify for protection, the Whistleblower must have reasonable grounds to suspect that the information they will disclose is a qualified disclosure.

An Eligible Whistleblower can remain anonymous and still qualify for protection.

Whistleblowers, or potential whistleblowers, can be compensated for any loss, damage, or injury they suffer. It is illegal to fire, harass or discriminate against a whistleblower or potential whistleblower because someone thinks they made a disclosure.  No DanceSurance or affiliate employee will have their employment with DanceSurance terminated as a result of making a Whistleblowing disclosure.

A Whistleblower can still qualify for protection even if their disclosure turns out to be incorrect.

8.2 Support

Where, because of the nature of the disclosure, or because of cooperation with law enforcement authorities, it is not possible to maintain a Whistleblower’s confidentiality, the Whistleblower Officer will inform the Whistleblower as soon as possible and work with them to minimise the impact of the loss of confidentiality and anonymity and support them.

Where possible, the following options may be provided to the Whistleblower as support:

  1. a leave of absence
  2. temporary relocation to another role or area of the business while maintaining pay and seniority
  3. provision of counselling services through the Employee Assistance Program.

This support will continue until the investigation is complete and this support is required to protect and support the Whistleblower.

8.3 Victimisation and Recrimination

Whistleblowers will not suffer victimisation or recrimination as a result of making a disclosure/ report.

Victimisation and recrimination by anyone in the DanceSurance community towards a Whistleblower or a suspect will not be tolerated.

Some examples include:

  • loss of job
  • physical or psychological abuse, harassment or threats
  • demotion of role, pay or entitlements
  • current or future bias and discrimination within DanceSurance
  • loss or risk of loss of contracts or business with DanceSurance
  • Malicious and vexatious rumours
  • Covert and cyber bullying
  • Damage to a person’s property
  • Damage to a person’s business or financial position
  • Other damage to a person or their family or associated persons.

Any form of criticism, threats, blaming, violence or retaliation towards a Whistleblower for making a disclosure is strictly prohibited and is a cause for disciplinary action, including instant dismissal.

  1. Personal work-related Grievances

Disclosures that relate solely to personal work-related grievances, and that do not relate to detriment or threat of detriment to the discloser, do not qualify for protection under the Corporations Act.

Work related grievances should follow the Complaints Handling Policy and Procedures.

  1. Confidentiality and Privacy

 Maintaining the confidentiality and anonymity of a Whistleblower is paramount.  DanceSurance and any person involved in investigating a disclosure or dealing with a Whistleblower will do everything reasonably possible to ensure that the Whistleblower’s identity will remain confidential and not disclosed unless required by law.

If anyone breaches a Whistleblower’s confidentiality or causes detriment to a Whistleblower because of their disclosure, that person will face criminal or civil penalties as well as possible dismissal from their employment with DanceSurance. 

  1. Legal Disclosures

Where, because of the nature of the reported disclosure, or because of cooperation with law enforcement authorities, it is not possible to maintain a Whistleblower’s confidentiality, the Whistleblowing Officer will inform the Whistleblower as soon as possible and work with them to minimise the impact of the loss of confidentiality.

  1. Investigations

All protected disclosures will be subject to thorough investigation by the Whistleblowing Officer. If the Whistleblowing Officer is unable to conduct the investigation impartially or effectively, or their involvement in the investigation may create a perception of bias, then the General Manager in consultation with DanceSurance directors will appoint an independent Investigation Officer.

The investigator will be fair and independent of the person who made the report and the person who is the subject of the reportable conduct and will follow best practice procedures as set out in this document.

The investigator may seek further information from the Whistleblower or other persons in the course of the investigation but must remember at all times the importance of protecting the identity of the Whistleblower.

The exact nature and outcome of an investigation will depend on the nature of the disclosure and may involve liaison with external organisations such as the police or regulators. Where a disclosure has been found to be without merit, this will be explained to the Whistleblower in writing where DanceSurance has contact details for them.

  1. Investigation Process

For a report to be investigated, it must contain sufficient information to form a reasonable basis for investigation.

Investigations can take up to 30 business days.   Whistleblowers will be updated on a regular basis.  This timeframe will be mutually agreed to by the Whistleblower and the person investigating the disclosure.  Unfortunately anonymous Whistleblowers may not be able to remain informed without some form of contact details being provided.

Diagram 1 below outlines the steps involved in investigating disclosures.

Diagram 1 – Investigation Management Process

  1. COMMUNICATIONS

 Communications with Whistleblowers will be made in a mutually agreed format that will protect the identity of the Whistleblower.  Emails may require to be encrypted and information password protected to ensure the confidentiality and privacy of the Whistleblower and any suspect under investigation. 

  1. FAIR AND EQUITABLE TREATEMENT OF SUSPECTS

DanceSurance will ensure fair treatment of employees who are mentioned in Whistleblower disclosures.  All Employees will be presumed innocent until proven guilt of the offence.

  1. WHISTLEBLOWING TRAINING

Training on this policy will be delivered to all employees upon commencement of their employment with DanceSurance and biennially thereafter.

Employees and Board members who are involved with investigating Whistleblower disclosures will also be provided with training on how to investigate and manage disclosures biennially.

Training will be recorded on the Training Register.

  1. ENFORCEMENT AND PENALITIES

Failure to comply with the requirement to have and make available a Whistleblower policy is an offence of strict liability with a penalty of 60 penalty units for individuals and companies (currently $12,600), enforceable by ASIC.

Breaches of this policy will be dealt with by DanceSurance’s General Manager on behalf of the Board.   After reviewing and investigating a breach, the Managing Director may terminate an employee, contractor, third party’s relationship with the business and possibly report them to authorities.

  1. DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT
Policy Title Version Date This Version Author
Privacy Policy and Procedural Manual 1 December 2019 Helen Georgiou
       
First Written Changes from last Version
2019 New
Authorised by Implementation Date Next Review Review Cycle
Board – 31 Dec 2019 1 January 2020 December 2021 2 years

 Resources

  • ASIC Regulatory Guide 270 “Whistleblower Policies”

https://download.asic.gov.au/media/5340534/rg270-published-13-november-2019.pdf 

  • Australian Corporations Act 2001 s. 1317AI

http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ca2001172/s1317ai.html