UAC whistleblower policy

Policy for whistleblower rights and protections

Purpose

UAC is committed to the highest ethical and professional standards of conduct and performance in all its business activities and to promoting and supporting a culture of ethical behaviour and good corporate governance.

UAC encourages the reporting of any matters of unethical, illegal, fraudulent or undesirable conduct that will harm the reputation, values and ethics of the company so that appropriate action can be undertaken.

Whistleblowing is the disclosure of information by a person (the whistleblower) who makes a report to UAC in connection with concerns regarding unethical, illegal, fraudulent or undesirable conduct of the company or a person who carries out work for the company.

UAC is required to implement a whistleblower policy to comply with the whistleblower protections law in section 1317AI of the Corporations Act 2001 (the Act). The policy defines UAC’s internal whistleblowing mechanism for reporting, investigating and administrating wrongdoing within the workplace and strengthens the protections available to whistleblowers. The outcome of any proven disclosure will be reported to the UAC Board.

A person who makes a disclosure of false information is not afforded any protection under this policy and may be subject to disciplinary action.

UAC will make this policy available on the company website, intranet and in such other ways as will ensure the policy is available to employees, members of the UAC Board and persons wishing to use it.  

Objectives

The objectives of the policy are to provide whistleblowers a clear understanding of:                  

  • who can make a qualifying disclosure (eligible whistleblowers)
  • the scope of disclosures that qualify for protection (qualifying disclosure)
  • the category of person to whom a qualifying disclosure may be made (eligible recipients)
  • protections available to whistleblowers
  • how UAC will ensure fair treatment of persons who are mentioned in disclosures that qualify for protection or to whom such disclosures relate  
  • how UAC will investigate disclosures that qualify for protection.

Scope

This policy applies to everyone who carries out work for UAC. This policy does not apply to personal work-related grievances in relation to the whistleblower’s employment that are unrelated to the disclosure.

Eligible whistleblowers

Eligible whistleblowers include current and former employees, board members, suppliers of goods and services (including their employees) or their relatives and dependants.

Qualifying disclosure

Disclosures qualifying for protection must be made by an eligible whistleblower and the disclosure is made to an eligible recipient. Disclosures can be made anonymously and still be protected under the Act.

Disclosable matters are the types of disclosures that qualify for protection under section 1317AA of the Act and include information indicating that UAC or an employee or agency staff of UAC or a board member has engaged in misconduct or an improper state of affairs or circumstances.

Examples of disclosable matters that relate specifically to UAC’s business operations and practices are illegal conduct such as theft, fraud, misappropriation of funds, offering or accepting a bribe and breach of legal or regulatory requirements.

Eligible recipients

The discloser can make a report to any one of the persons listed below to receive whistleblower disclosure. If the disclosure is about matters concerning any of the internal recipients or the UAC Board Chair, the discloser must report their concerns directly to the Company Secretary.

  • UAC Board Chair (Interim)
    Mr Damien Israel
    Email: damien.israel@uow.edu.au                                          
  • Managing Director
    Dr David Christie
    Email: david.christie@uac.edu.au                                          
  • General Manager, People and Finance
    Mr Tim Gleeson   
    Email: tim.gleeson@uac.edu.au  
  • Human Resources Manager
    Ms Jennie Edwards
    Email: jennie.edwards@uac.edu.au
  • Company Secretary
    Mr Michael Berg
    Email: michael.berg@uac.edu.au

Reports may also be posted to UAC, Locked Bag 112, Silverwater, NSW, 2128 (marked ‘confidential’ to the attention of one of the persons above).

UAC will acknowledge a discloser in writing after receiving their disclosure.

If the discloser wishes to seek additional information before formally making the report, the discloser can contact any of the persons above.

Legal protections for whistleblowers

Eligible whistleblowers will qualify for the protection under the Corporations Act 2001 when the report is made to an eligible recipient, ASIC, ATO or a legal practitioner for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or legal representation in relation to the whistleblower provisions in the Act. A whistleblower can still qualify for protection even if their disclosure turns out to be incorrect.

For disclosures in relation to the tax affairs of UAC, eligible whistleblowers will qualify for similar protection under section 14ZZT(2) of the Taxation Administration Act 1953.

Protection of identity and confidentiality

UAC is committed to preserving the confidentiality of:

  • the information or the identity of the whistleblower
  • the identity of the person who is the subject of disclosure
  • the fact of the disclosure
  • the information collected during the investigation.

An unauthorised disclosure of a discloser’s identity may be a criminal offence. UAC will make all reasonable efforts to ensure the identity of the discloser remains confidential throughout the investigation process. The discloser can lodge a complaint with any of the eligible recipients about a breach of confidentiality or lodge a complaint with ASIC or ATO for investigation.

UAC will not disclose the discloser’s identity except to ASIC, the Australian Federal Police, a legal practitioner for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or legal representation about the whistleblower provisions in the Act or with the consent of the discloser.

UAC will not disclose information that is likely to lead to the identification of the discloser without the discloser’s consent. UAC can disclose the information when it does not include or lead to the discloser’s identity being revealed or when it is reasonably necessary for investigating the issues raised in the disclosure.

Measures adopted to protect the confidentiality of a discloser’s identity include:

  • all personal information or reference to the discloser witnessing an event will be redacted
  • the discloser will be referred to in a gender-neutral context
  • access to all information relating to a disclosure is limited to those directly involved in managing and investigating the disclosure.

Protection against detrimental treatment

UAC is committed to ensuring that those who make a report are treated fairly and do not suffer detriment. Where the investigation has found that the person making the allegation made it in good faith on reasonable grounds, UAC will ensure that the person suffers no detrimental treatment and will provide additional support to the person where necessary.

Detrimental treatment includes dismissal, demotion, personal injury, harassment, intimidation, discrimination, damage to a person’s business or financial position, damage to a person’s reputation or other unfavourable treatment connected with making a report.

Measures adopted to protect disclosers from detrimental treatment include:

  • processes for assessing the risk of detriment against a discloser and other persons after receiving a disclosure
  • support services (eg counselling) and strategies to help a discloser minimise and manage stress or performance impacts, or other challenges resulting from the disclosure or its investigation
  • processes for ensuring that the eligible recipients are aware of their responsibilities to maintain the confidentiality of a disclosure, address the risks of isolation or harassment, manage conflicts and ensure fairness when managing the performance of a discloser
  • procedures on how a discloser can lodge a complaint if they have suffered detriment and the actions UAC may take in response to such complaints.

If you are subjected to detrimental treatment as a result of making a report under this policy, you should inform the eligible recipients in this policy immediately. You may seek independent legal advice or contact ASIC or ATO if you believe you have suffered detriment.

You can seek compensation and other remedies through the courts if you suffer loss, damage or injury because of a disclosure and UAC has failed to take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence to prevent the detriment conduct.

Protection from civil, criminal and administrative liability

The discloser is protected from the following liability in relation to the disclosure:

  • civil liability (eg any legal action against the discloser for breach of an employment contract, duty of confidentiality or another contractual obligation)
  • criminal liability (eg attempted prosecution of the discloser for unlawfully releasing information)
  • administrative liability (eg disciplinary action for making the disclosure).

The protections do not grant immunity for any misconduct a discloser has engaged in that is revealed in their disclosure.

Protection of files and records   

All records created from an investigation will be retained securely. Formal precautionary measures are applied to restrict access to communications and documents about an investigation by other staff. Unauthorised release of information is in breach of this policy and will be subject to disciplinary action.

Protection of anonymity

A discloser can choose to remain anonymous while making a disclosure, over the course of the investigation and after the investigation is finalised. A discloser can refuse to answer questions that they feel could reveal their identity at any time. It is suggested that a discloser who wishes to remain anonymous should maintain ongoing two-way communication with UAC so UAC can ask follow-up questions or provide feedback. A discloser may adopt a pseudonym for the purpose of their communication. 

Protection of personal work-related grievance

A personal work-related grievance may qualify for protection under the Act if:

  • the personal work-related grievance forms part of the disclosure (mixed report); or
  • the discloser suffers from or is threatened with detriment for making a disclosure.

Personal work-related grievances that are unrelated to the disclosure do not qualify for protection under the Act. Examples include an interpersonal conflict between the discloser and another employee; a decision about the engagement, transfer or promotion of the discloser; a decision about the terms and conditions of engagement of the discloser; a decision to discipline the discloser or a decision to suspend or terminate the engagement of the discloser.

Protection for public interest or emergency disclosure

The discloser will qualify for protection when the report is made to a journalist or parliamentarian as a public interest disclosure (the information is in the public interest) or emergency disclosure (the information concerns a substantial and imminent danger to the health and safety of one or more persons) under certain circumstances.

To qualify for protection, the disclosure must have previously been made to ASIC or ATO and a written notice to the body that includes sufficient information to identify the previous disclosure and states that the discloser intends to make a public interest or emergency disclosure. The discloser should contact an independent legal adviser before making the disclosure.

In the case of a public interest disclosure, protection will apply only when the reporting is made at least 90 days after the previous disclosure to the body and the discloser does not have reasonable grounds to believe that action has been taken to address the matter. 

Investigation

An investigation team is formed to determine whether sufficient information exists to allow the report to be investigated, whether an investigation is required and, if so, determine the necessary action and timeframe to investigate the disclosure. UAC will ensure that the team members will not present a real or apparent conflict of interest with the investigation outcome.

Strict security will be maintained during the investigation process. All information obtained will be properly secured to prevent unauthorised access.

UAC will apply principles of procedural fairness and natural justice to the conduct of any investigation and resultant findings so that the investigation is conducted on a fair and impartial basis. The matters which are the subject of the investigation are made known to the person who is the subject of the disclosure and that person is given adequate opportunity to respond to those matters.

An investigation report with findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Managing Director or the UAC Board Chair for approval to implement the recommendations.

A whistleblower will be informed of the progress and outcome of an investigation in writing when deemed appropriate by UAC. The frequency and timeframe for updating the discloser will depend on the nature of the disclosure. There may be circumstances where it may not be appropriate to provide details of the outcome to the discloser.

If the whistleblower wants to remain anonymous, UAC may not be able to undertake an investigation if the discloser cannot be contacted. Such anonymity may make it less likely that the alleged disclosure can be substantiated in any subsequent investigation.

Victimisation

UAC is committed to ensuring that the whistleblower is not victimised. UAC will thoroughly investigate reports of victimisation. If proven, those who have victimised may be subject to disciplinary action or dismissal.