Whistle-blowing is the act of exposing the dishonest or otherwise illegal or dodgy practices of a business, government, or other body. Unfortunately, most whistle-blowers are often targeted by the organization they expose, which can lead to significant mental and financial stress.
Fortunately, you can stay ahead of the ball by speaking with employment lawyers to develop a plan before going public. This might seem difficult, but it will be worth it in the long run – trust us.
In the rest of this article, we’ve covered whistle-blowing in Australia, the legalities of it, and a few things you should consider.
What is Whistle-blowing?
In short, whistle-blowing is the practice of exposing illegal, unethical, or otherwise dishonest information or activities. Often, these activities are being undertaken by large companies and/or businesses, who will usually go out of their way to protect their interests.
There are two types of whistle-blowing.
Internal whistle-blowing generally involves bringing something to the attention of someone within the organisation, such as a supervisor or manager. External whistle-blowing, on the other hand, involves sharing the information with an external source, such as the media or a law enforcement agency.
What Are the Risks of Whistle-blowing?
If you want to expose the practices of a large company or other organization, the chances are that they will fight back. You may be subject to any one of a number of issues, including:
- Losing your job, especially if you’re exposing the organization you’re working in.
- Lawsuits from the organization that you’ve exposed.
- A tarnished reputation.
- Difficulties getting a new job, particularly if you try to work within the same industry.
Unfortunately, these problems are all too common. Luckily, though, Australia does offer significant protection for whistle-blowers.
What Protections Will I Have as a Whistle-blower in Australia?
Remember, the following is only meant as a guide, and you should always seek the advice of a qualified employment lawyer. However, law changes as recently the 1st of July 2019 mean that whistle-blowers in Australia are well protected.
- Disclosures about criminal breaches, tax issues, and other systemic issues within a company are protected.
- Many whistle-blowers will benefit from improved privacy laws, allowing them to remain anonymous.
- Some whistle-blowers will also benefit from immunity against prosecution.
In general, it remains a company’s responsibility to protect whistle-blowers, especially if said whistle-blower retains their employment. The penalties for failing to meet this responsibility are large, which means it’s a good idea for employers and employees alike to speak with an experienced employment lawyer.
If you’re seriously thinking about exposing an organization or group of people within an organization, it’s definitely worth consulting an employment lawyer to ensure you’re protected. Doing so will also ensure that you’re following the correct channels and will reduce the risk of you falling into legal trouble in the future.
Fortunately, whistle-blowers are quite well protected in Australia. Because of this, we’d always recommend bringing any dodgy practices to light – after all, the rules are there for a reason, and those who break them deserve to pay the consequences.