- Background and Purpose
Whistleblowers are those who sound the alert on misconduct, an improper state of affairs or circumstances or some kinds of illegal conduct.
NECA Education and Careers is committed to the highest standards of conduct and ethical behaviour in all our business activities, and to promoting and supporting a culture of honest and ethical behaviour, corporate compliance and strong corporate governance. If any of our officers, employees, agents, suppliers or contractors have a reasonable basis to think there are problems in our business – we encourage you to make a report to the appropriate contact (either under this Policy or under our other policies and procedures).
This NECA Education and Careers Whistleblower Policy (the “Policy”) outlines the expectations of NECA Education and Careers for whistleblowers and the measures we have in place to ensure that whistleblowers are protected from detrimental action because of the fact they have made a protected disclosure.
This Policy also sets out our processes for dealing with protected disclosures made by whistleblowers in a confidential and secure manner and is intended to apply to whistleblowers in all jurisdictions in which NECA Education and Careers operates.This policy is available on the website of NECA Education and Careers.
- ScopeThis Policy applies to:
(a) A current or former officer or employee of NECA Education and Careers, whether full-time, part-time or casual, at any level of seniority and wherever employed; and
(b) A current or former supplier or an employee of a supplier to NECA Education and Careers;
(c) A current or former associate of NECA Education and Careers; and
(d) A relative, dependent or spouse of any of the above.In this Policy these people are referred to as “employees and stakeholders”. This Policy supplements any other policies applicable to NECA Education and Careers.
- What kinds of matters can a protected disclosure be about?
Employees and stakeholders can make a protected disclosure under this Policy if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that there is or has been misconduct, or an improper state of affairs in connection with NECA Education and Careers or a related body corporate. This includes the following kinds of conduct:
(a) Conduct that is dishonest, fraudulent or corrupt, including bribery and money laundering;
(b) Conduct that is illegal (such as failing to comply with regulatory requirements, theft, criminal damage to property or breaches of certain Commonwealth laws);
(c) Conduct that is unethical (such as negligent conduct, conduct that involves a breach of trust or a breach of duty, financial irregularities or dishonestly altering company records or data);
(d) Represents a danger to the public or financial system; or
(e) Conduct involving any other kind of misconduct or an improper state of affairs or circumstances. Please note, the conduct being reported does not have to be conduct that breaches the law.
What kinds of reports are not covered by this Policy?
A personal work-related grievance is not a protected disclosure under this Policy.
A disclosure will concern a personal work-related grievance of the discloser ONLY IF ALL of the following apply:
(a) the information disclosed concerns a grievance about any matter in relation to the discloser’s employment, or former employment, having (or tending to have) implications for the discloser personally; and
(b) the information does not have significant implications for NECA Education and Careers (or a related entity) that do not relate to the discloser; and
(c) the information does not concern conduct, or alleged conduct, that relates to serious breaches of certain Commonwealth legislation.
By way of example, personal work-related grievances can include:
(d) interpersonal conflict between employees;
(e) decisions relating to engagement, transfer or promotion;
(f) decisions relating to terms and conditions of employment; and
(g) decisions relating to discipline (such as warnings, suspensions or termination of employment).
If you have a personal work-related grievance, you are encouraged to consider alternative options that exist for you to raise your concerns, and have them addressed, under our other policies and procedures.
Who can protected disclosures be made to at NECA Education and Careers?
(a) Compliance Officer: Stacey Fedden
(b) Alternate Compliance Officer: Angela Abreu
It is important to note that under the Corporations Act, the whistleblower may also raise the matter with an “officer” or “senior manager” of the company, an auditor (or member of an audit team), actuary of NECA Education and Careers, or a related body corporate. A protected disclosure can also be made to ASIC, APRA or a prescribed Commonwealth authority.
Some kinds of protected disclosures can also be made to a legal practitioner (where the disclosure is for the purpose of obtaining advice or representation in relation to the whistleblower provisions) or to a member of parliament or journalist if the disclosure is made on public interest or emergency grounds (but in that case, additional criteria apply under the Corporations Act).A disclosure can be made by contacting one of the above nominated people at NECA Education and Careers (or a related body corporate). This can be done in person, by phone or by email, and a discloser can choose to make their disclosure anonymously if they would like to do so.
- Responsibility for Policy Compliance and ReviewThe Compliance Officer for NECA Education and Careers is generally responsible for:
(a) the overall administration of this Policy;
(b) monitoring the implementation of this Policy including any reviews of its suitability and effectiveness;
(c) seeking to protect any whistleblowers from Detrimental Conduct;
(d) the steps necessary and appropriate to maintain whistleblower confidentiality as required by this Policy and applicable law;
(e) reviewing and considering any complaints of Detrimental Conduct or any concern that disclosure has not been dealt with in accordance with this Policy; and
(f) escalating any matter the Compliance Officer considers appropriate to the escalation officer.In the case of a protected disclosure being made which involves the Compliance Offer, an alternative may be appointed as appropriate.
- Detrimental Conduct ProhibitedNECA Education and Careers aims to ensure that all people are protected from unlawful victimization or detriment because of the fact that they have made, could make, propose to make, may have made a protected disclosure or are involved in any investigation into a protected disclosure (in this section, this will be referred to as being ‘involved in a protected disclosure’).
Without limitation, NECA Education and Careers requires that all our employees, agents, officers, contractors and suppliers should not penalize or subject a person to detriment (or threaten) to do so, because that person was involved in a protected disclosure. Detriment includes any of the following kinds of conduct:
(a) termination of employment, or injuring a person in their employment;
(b) harassment or intimidation;
(c) unlawful discrimination;
(d) harm or injury, including psychological harm;
(e) damage to property
(f) other damage including to the person’s reputation, business or financial position.
It is important to understand that while NECA Education and Careers requires that a person involved in a protected disclosure is not subjected to detriment because of their involvement, a person may still be subject to performance management or disciplinary action as a result of information that comes to light as a result of a protected disclosure. In other words, there is no immunity for any misconduct or other inappropriate conduct simply because a protected disclosure is made.NECA Education and Careers will take such action as it considers necessary to support whistleblowers, protect them from detriment and respond to any instances in which the standards set out in this Policy have been breached.
- Addressing protected disclosuresWhistleblower disclosures made under this Policy will be documented and addressed promptly and confidentially by NECA Education and Careers.
It will often be appropriate for us to investigate the issues raised in the disclosure. Where there is an investigation, the process that will be adopted in the investigation will depend on a number of factors, including the nature of the conduct being investigated. External investigators and advisors may be engaged to assist as appropriate on a case-by-case basis.NECA Education and Careers will seek to ensure that the investigation processes and procedures achieve fair treatment of any employees involved in an investigation, while appropriately protecting confidentiality. The specific steps and requirements to be adopted in each matter will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Where any employee or officer is involved in an investigation, our expectation is that they will participate frankly and truthfully, and in good faith. Where we know the identity of a whistleblower and it is appropriate for us to do so, we may provide an update on the outcome of the investigation.
- What protections are provided to whistleblowers?
Aside from the protections which might be available under other policies, procedures and laws, a person making a protected disclosure has the benefit of a number of protections under the Corporations Act. In particular, a person who makes a protected disclosure:
(a) Is entitled to have their confidentiality protected. It is illegal to identify a person who has made a protected disclosure, or to disclose information that is likely to lead to their identity, unless one of the following applies:
(i) The person has consented;
(ii) It is reasonably necessary, for the purposes of investigating the issues raised in the protected disclosure and NECA Education and Careers has taken all reasonable steps to reduce the risk of identification and the information disclosed does not include the person’s identity; or
(iii) The disclosure is otherwise required or authorized by law (eg, in some circumstances disclosures can be made to regulators or legal advisers).
(b) Is protected from unlawful detrimental acts or omissions as set out above.
(c) Is protected from civil liability, criminal liability and administrative liability for making a protected disclosure. (However, there is no immunity for any misconduct that is revealed in a protected disclosure, and this does not prevent decisions being made for other lawful reasons.)(d) If he or she considers that they have been treated in a way that amounts to a breach of the law, they may have access to compensation and other remedies.
- Consequences of breach and where to go to get further informationAll officers and employees must ensure that they are familiar and comply with the requirements of this Policy, especially regarding the protections and support for persons who make protected disclosures. If any person receives confidential information as a result of a protected disclosure being made, and is unsure about what their obligations are, they should contact NECA Education and Careers to seek guidance before any disclosure is made.
A breach of the obligations in this Policy could also amount to a breach of the law, for which an individual could be personally liable and/or for which NECA Education and Careers could be liable. This document sets out above some information about some of the laws that apply when a protected disclosure is made. However, nothing in this document amounts to legal advice or alters any rights or obligations arising under law.
We encourage any person who has questions about their legal rights or obligations that arise outside this document to take any steps necessary to seek any professional advice about their position. They may wish to consider contacting a regulator such as ASIC or APRA, or to seek independent legal advice about their position.
The following sources of information may be a helpful starting point:
(a) ASIC publishes guidance for whistleblowers, which can be accessed via www.asic.gov.au
(b) APRA publishes information about whistleblowers which can be accessed via www.apra.gov.au
(c) If you want to access a copy of the Corporations Act 2001 you can do so via the Australian government’s legislation website at www.legislation.gov.au(d) There are also protections for whistleblowers under tax laws and the ATO publishes information concerning tax whistleblowers at www.ato.gov.au.
- Special Protections under the Taxation Administration ActThe Taxation Administration Act gives special protection to disclosures about a breach of any Australian tax law by NECA Education and Careers or misconduct in relation to NECA Education and Careers tax affairs if the following conditions are satisfied:
(a) the whistleblower is or has been:
(i) an officer or employee of NECA Education and Careers;
(ii) an individual who supplies goods or services to NECA Education and Careers or an employee of a person who supplies goods or services to NECA Education and Careers company;
(iii) an individual who is an associate NECA Education and Careers; or
(iv) a relative, dependent or dependent of the spouse of any individual referred to above;
(b) the report is made to:
(i) a Compliance Officer;
(ii) a director, secretary or senior manager of NECA Education and Careers;
(iii) any NECA Education and Careers external auditor;
(iv) a registered tax agent or BAS agent who provides tax or BAS services to NECA Education and Careers;
(v) any other employee or officer of NECA Education and Careers who has functions or duties relating to tax affairs of the company (e.g., an internal accountant); (NECA Education and Careers recipients)
(vi) the Commissioner of Taxation; or
(vii) a legal practitioner for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or legal representation in relation to the operation of the whistleblower provisions in the Taxation Administration Act; and
(c) if the report is made to NECA Education and Careers recipient, the whistleblower:
(i) has reasonable grounds to suspect that the information indicates misconduct, or an improper state of affairs or circumstances, in relation to the tax affairs of NECA Education and Careers or an associate of that company; and
(ii) considers that the information may assist the NECA Education and Careers recipient to perform functions or duties in relation to the tax affairs of NECA Education and Careers or an associate of the company; and
(d) if the report is made to the Commissioner of Taxation, the whistleblower considers that the information may assist the NECA Education and Careers recipient to perform functions or duties in relation to the tax affairs of NECA Education and Careers or an associate of the company.
The protections given by the Taxation Administration Act when these conditions are met are:
(a) the whistleblower is immune from any civil, criminal or administrative legal action (including disciplinary action) for making the disclosure;
(b) no contractual or other remedies may be enforced, and no contractual or other right may be exercised, against the whistleblower for making the report;
(c) where the disclosure was made to the Commissioner of Taxation, the reported information is not admissible against the whistleblower in criminal proceedings or in proceedings for the imposition of a penalty, except where the proceedings are concerned with whether the information is false;
(d) unless the whistleblower has acted unreasonably, a whistleblower cannot be ordered to pay costs in any legal proceedings in relation to a report;
(e) anyone who causes or threatens to cause detriment to a whistleblower or another person in the belief or suspicion that a report has been made, or may have been made, proposes to or could be made, may be guilty of an offence and liable to pay damages;
(f) a whistleblower’s identity cannot be disclosed to a Court or tribunal except where considered necessary and
(g) the person receiving the report commits an offence if they disclose the substance of the report or the whistleblower’s identity, without the whistleblower’s consent, to anyone except the Commissioner of Taxation, the AFP or a lawyer for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or representation in relation to the report.
If a report is made, the identity of the discloser will be kept confidential unless one of the following exceptions applies:
(a) the discloser consents to the disclosure of their identity;
(b) disclosure of details that might reveal their identity is reasonably necessary for the effective investigation of the allegation
(c) the concern is reported to the Commissioner of Taxation or the AFP; or(d) the concern is raised with a lawyer for the purpose obtaining legal advice or representation.
- Policy Review
This policy is reviewed periodically as detailed in the Policy Library Schedule.
Last updated October 2023