1. Purpose of Policy
1.1 Multiple Sclerosis Australia (MS Australia) aims to provide an environment where employees and others in the workplace are treated fairly and with respect. Employees, volunteers and contractors are encouraged to report any wrongdoing.
1.2 MS Australia also aims to help provide employees, volunteers and contractors with a supportive work environment in which they feel able to raise issues of legitimate concern to the organization without fear of victimization, detriment or other retribution, and provide suitable avenues for reporting of matters that may cause loss to or damage MS Australia’s reputation.
2. Application of Policy
2.1 This policy applies to eligible whistleblowers. An eligible whistleblower includes current and former employees, volunteers, secondees, managers and directors. It applies to suppliers, contractors, consultants and service providers and a relative, dependent or spouse of the above. This policy must not be used for trivial or vexatious matters (being matters that the reporter knows, or ought to know, have no substance). This policy is not intended to replace other reporting structures or grievance procedures such as those for dispute resolution, grievances, equal opportunity, discrimination, harassment or bullying.
2.2 This Policy does not form part of any employee’s contract of employment. Nor does it form part of any other employee’s contract for service.
2.3 MS Australia is committed to the highest standards of legal, ethical and moral behavior. MS Australia will not tolerate unethical or unlawful conduct. This policy documents the organisation’s commitment to maintaining an environment in which employees, volunteers and contractors are able to report, without fear of retaliatory action, concerns about any serious instances of wrongdoing that they believe may be occurring in the name of MS Australia.
3.1 “Whistleblower Laws” refers to the protections contained in Part 9.4AAA of the Corporations Act 2001.
3.2 “Whistleblowing” means the deliberate, voluntary disclosure of individual or organizational wrongdoing by a person who has or had privileged access to data, events or information about an actual, suspected or anticipated wrongdoing within or by an organization that is within its ability to control.
3.3 “Wrongdoing” means any conduct that is fraudulent, corrupt, or illegal, such as theft, drug sale or use, violence, criminal damage to property or other breaches of state or federal legislation; unethical behaviors, such as dishonestly altering MS Australia records or engaging in questionable accounting practices or willfully breaching MS Australia’s code of conduct or other ethical statements; potentially damaging to another employee or contractor, such as unsafe work practices or substantial wasting of resources; causes financial loss to MS Australia or damages its reputation or is otherwise detrimental to MS Australia’s interests or involves any other kind of serious impropriety, and may include concealment of wrongdoing.
3.4 “Discloser” means the person/s eligible to make a disclosure protected by Whistleblower Laws.
3.5 “Protected Matters” means the types of matters outlined within this policy, which are protected by Whistleblower Laws and the terms of this policy.
4. Types of disclosures protected by Whistleblower laws
4.1 A disclosure is protected by Whistleblower Laws if:
(a) the disclosure relates to Protected Matters;
(b) the information is disclosed by a Discloser identified in section 6 below; and
(c) the disclosure is made to one of the persons identified in section below (provided the pre-requisites in section 6 have been satisfied).
4.2 All of the above 3 conditions must be satisfied for a disclosure to be protected by Whistleblower Laws.
5. Protected matters
5.1 The types of disclosures which are protected are those where the Discloser has reasonable grounds to suspect that the information disclosed concerns misconduct, or an improper state of affairs or circumstances, in relation to MS Australia.
5.2 These types of Protected Matters would include concerns that MS Australia employees or officers of the M S Australia have engaged in conduct that:
a) constitutes a contravention of the Corporations Act 2001, the ASIC Act, Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth) (the ACNC Act), the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993, the Banking Act 1959 or any insurance or life insurance statutes;
b) constitutes an offence against a law of the Commonwealth which is punishable by imprisonment for 12 months or more; and/or
c) represents a danger to staff, the public or the financial system.
5.3 The disclosure of information related to a personal work-related grievance is not generally protected by Whistleblower Laws. A personal work-related grievance relates to information where:
a) the information concerns a grievance in relation to the Discloser’s employment or former employment which has implications for the Discloser personally; and
b) the information does not have significant implications for MS Australia that do not relate to the Discloser; and
c) the information does not concern conduct or alleged conduct referred to in the three examples cited at sections 5.2 (a) to (c) earlier above.
Examples of personal work-related grievances include interpersonal conflicts between the Discloser and other employees, decisions regarding engaging, transferring or promoting a Discloser and decisions to discipline a Discloser or suspend or terminate the engagement of a Discloser.
6. Who may make disclosures about protected matters – eligible whistleblowers
6.1 Each of the following persons may make a protected disclosure:
a) MSA employees and officers as well as their relatives and dependents or spouse;
b) suppliers of goods or services to the MS Australia and their relatives, dependents or spouse;
c) employees of suppliers of goods or services to the MS Australia including their relatives, dependents or spouse; and
d) an associate of MS Australia and their relatives, dependents or spouse
6.2 There is no requirement for a Discloser to identify themselves to be protected by Whistleblower Laws. That is, protected disclosures may be made anonymously.
7. Reporting any wrongdoing
MS Australia is committed to identify and address wrongdoing as early as possible. MS Australia encourages disclosers to firstly contact the Company Secretary who is the Whistleblower Protection Officer.
The disclosure can be made face to face, via email or phone.
The Whistleblower Officer is an eligible recipient under the Corporations Act and you will receive protection as a whistleblower with your internal disclosure. Disclosing to any other staff or officers in MS Australia is not protected.
7.1 Alternatively, for unlawful breaches, eligible whistleblowers can make a disclosure directly to:
a) ASIC, APRA or ACNC;
b) a legal practitioner for the purposes of obtaining legal advice or representation in relation to Whistleblower Laws;
c) an auditor or member of an audit team conducting an audit on the MS Australia or its related bodies corporate
7.2 On receipt of the disclosure the Company Secretary is responsible for ensuring the matter is properly dealt with. This may include appointing an independent investigator to inquire into the allegations.
7.3 If the eligible whistleblower does not believe reporting to the Company Secretary through normal reporting channels is appropriate given the circumstances of the wrongdoing, the report may also be made directly an external party. This external party is Worklogic who offer a 24×7 online reporting service (www.integrityline.com.au) and a hotline (1800 468 456) during working hours.
7.4 Worklogic have three levels of anonymity: fully anonymous, partially anonymous, and not anonymous.
7.5 Worklogic accept reports on any type of inappropriate workplace behaviour or grievance. Such as harassment, bullying, fraud, or other unethical practices.
7.6 In compliance with the Whistleblower Protection Act 2019, Worklogic accept reports from Staff, former staff, families and friends, contractors, and any other parties with clear connections to MS Australia.
7.7 Reports are triaged by Worklogic’s qualified staff then forwarded for action to the Company Secretary (whom Worklogic call ‘Designated Officers’).
7.8 All action on a report is undertaken by the Company Secretary, The Audit and Risk Committee and the MS Australia Board.
7.9 Where it is shown that a person purporting to be a whistleblower has knowingly made a false report of wrongdoing, then that conduct itself will be considered a serious matter. A false report includes matters the reporter knows, or ought to known, have no substance.
7.10 In the event that the whistleblowing report is found to be vexatious, frivolous or false this may lead to performance management.
8. Disclosures to politicians and journalists
A disclosure of a Protected Matter to a journalist or member of State or Federal Parliament will be protected by Whistleblower Laws only if it qualifies for the public interest requirements or emergency requirements outlined below.
Public interest disclosures
A disclosure of Protected Matters to a member of State or Federal Parliament or journalist will be protected by Whistleblower Laws if all of the following requirements are satisfied:
a) the Discloser has previously made a disclosure of the information pursuant to this policy;
b) at least 90 days have passed since the previous disclosure was made;
c) the Discloser does not have reasonable grounds to believe that action is being or has been taken to address the previous disclosure;
d) the Discloser has reasonable grounds to believe that making a further disclosure of the information to a member of Parliament or journalist would be in the public interest;
e) the Discloser has given the MS Australia written notification that identifies the previous disclosure and states that the Discloser intends to make a public interest disclosure; and
f) the extent of information disclosed is no greater than is necessary to inform the journalist or member of Parliament of the relevant misconduct or improper state of affairs.
A disclosure of Protected Matters to a journalist or member of State or Federal Parliament will be protected by Whistleblower Laws if all of the following requirements are satisfied:
a) the Discloser has previously made a disclosure of the information pursuant to this policy;
b) the Discloser has reasonable grounds to believe that the information concerns a substantial and imminent danger to the health or safety of one or more persons or to the natural environment;
c) the Discloser has given the MS Research Australia written notification that identifies the previous disclosure and states that the Discloser intends to make an emergency disclosure; and
d) the extent of information disclosed is no greater than is necessary to inform the journalist or member of Parliament of the substantial and imminent danger.
9. Confidentiality of whistleblower’s identity and whistleblower reports
9.1 Where a disclosure is protected by Whistleblower Laws, the Laws prohibit persons from disclosing the identity of a Discloser or disclosing information that is likely to lead to the identification of the Discloser.
9.2 Persons may only disclose the identity of a Discloser with the Discloser’s consent or to ASIC, APRA, ACNC, the AFP or a legal practitioner for the purposes of obtaining legal advice about the Whistleblower Laws. Persons may also disclose the existence of the Protected Matters (without disclosing the identity of the Discloser) to the extent necessary for the matters to be investigated, provided all reasonable steps are taken to reduce the risk that the Discloser’s identity can be discovered. These disclosures may include disclosures to:
a) The Company Secretary, the MS Australia Board Chair, the Chief Executive Officer or the Chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee
b) Delegates to the Head of Corporate Services or other managers to make inquires or to conduct investigations or order external investigations as is deemed appropriate; and
c) Disclosures to respondents to complaints to ensures that the person/s against whom allegations are made are given the opportunity to respond to any allegations.
d) Any breach of these confidentiality protections attracts significant fines for both individuals and companies.
10. Protection of whistleblowers
10.1 MS Australia is committed to protecting and respecting the rights of a person who reports wrongdoing in good faith. MS Australia will not tolerate any retaliatory action or threats of retaliatory action against any person who has made or who is believed to have made a report of wrongdoing, or against that person’s colleagues, employer (if a contractor) or relatives. For example, the person must not be disadvantaged or victimised by having made the report by:
- Any form of harassment;
- Current or future bias; or
- Threats of any of the above.
10.2 Any such retaliatory action or victimization in reprisal for a report being made under this policy will be treated as serious misconduct and will result in disciplinary action, which may include dismissal.
10.3 If a person who makes a report is implicated in the wrongdoing, that person must not be subjected to any actual or threatened retaliatory action or victimization in reprisal for making a report under this policy.
10.4 The act of whistleblowing does not, in itself, protect the person from any reasonable consequences flowing from any involvement in wrongdoing. A person’s liability for his or her own conduct is not affected by the person’s disclosure of that conduct. However, the reporting of the wrongdoing, cooperation with any investigation, or an admission by the person may be a mitigating factor when considering disciplinary or other action to be taken against them.
11.1 All reports of alleged or suspected wrongdoing made under this policy will be properly assessed and, if appropriate, independently investigated with the objective of locating evidence that either substantiates or refutes the claims made by the whistleblower.
11.2 The Company Secretary, the Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee, Chair of the Board will be responsible for ensuring the proper conduct of the investigation, which may include appropriate instruction of and oversight by a third party appointed to conduct an investigation. The investigation will not be conducted by a person who may be the subject of the investigation or has inappropriate links or connections (actual or perceived) to the person(s) or practice(s) under investigation.
11.3 The Company Secretary, Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee, Chair of the Board will keep the whistleblower informed of the outcomes of the investigation to his/her report subject to the considerations of privacy of those against whom the allegations have been made.
11.4 Throughout the assessment and investigation process MSA will treat fairly the person who is the subject of a report.
11.5 If, following an investigation, the allegations are found not to be substantiated, then any documents relating to the investigation will be handled confidentially, subject to disclosures to the appropriate members of management, as appropriate.
MS Australia reserves the right to vary, replace or terminate this policy from time to time.