Hays Australia Whistleblower Policy
Purpose of this policy
Hays Specialist Recruitment (Australia) Pty Ltd (Hays Australia) expects high standards of conduct and behaviour from its employees and officers in terms of ethical and moral principles in order to encourage a commercially successful, legally compliant, safe and supportive working environment. A guiding principle sitting over Hays’ values is ‘Do the Right Thing’.
Hays regards all forms of impropriety as an extremely serious issue and actively encourages individuals to raise any concerns they may have in respect of breaches of the law and serious breaches of company policy and procedures. Individuals are an essential source of information in identifying potential problems and allowing us to investigate these issues may prevent or limit any significant damage to the Company’s reputation or other loss.
Australia has a Whistleblower protection regime under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) which aims to encourage ethical whistleblowing and discourage white collar crime, while holding employers accountable for protecting eligible whistleblowers in the corporate, finance and tax sectors (Whistleblowing Regime).
Hays Australia is committed to the protection of individuals who disclose information about illegal or improper conduct occurring within Hays to ensure that individuals have a safe, reliable and confidential way of reporting any disclosures covered by the Whistleblowing Regime. We will provide protections to those who report such occurrences by protecting their confidentiality and allowing those individuals to bring matters to our attention free from fear of intimidation, disadvantage or reprisal by Hays as required under the Whistleblowing Regime.
What does this policy do?
The aim of this policy is to offer a reporting and investigative mechanism that is objective and confidential and to create an environment where such concerns can be raised without fear of reprisal or detrimental treatment.
Under this policy
- You are encouraged to report your concerns, whether openly or, if preferred, anonymously
- If you report your concerns, you will be afforded confidentiality unless you indicate (or the law allows or requires) otherwise
- Concerns reported by you will be properly investigated
- You will not be victimised or adversely affected by Hays because of your action in reporting your concerns under the Whistleblowing Regime
Who does this policy apply to?
Whistleblower disclosures can be made by current and former:
- Employees and officers
- Suppliers of goods or services to Hays Australia (whether paid or unpaid) and their employees
- An individual who is a related body corporate of Hays Australia
- Relatives or dependents of any of the above people or dependents of any of the above people’s spouses
The above people will be referred to in this policy as a ‘Discloser’.
A Discloser qualifies for protection as a Whistleblower under the Corporations Act if they make a Qualifying Disclosure (defined in the next section):
- To an eligible recipient or to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (‘ASIC’), the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (‘APRA’) or another body prescribed by regulation (see the ‘How to and Whom to report to’ section below)
- To a legal practitioner for the purposes of obtaining legal advice or legal representation about the operation of the Whistleblowing Regime
- As an ‘emergency disclosure’ or ‘public interest disclosure’ (see the ‘Public Interest Disclosures and Emergency Disclosures’ section below)
What is a Qualifying Disclosure?
A Qualifying Disclosure is a disclosure of information that the Discloser has reasonable grounds to suspect that the information:
- Concerns misconduct or an improper state of affairs or circumstance in relation to Hays Australia and its related bodies corporate
- Indicates that Hays Australia, its related bodies corporate, or an officer or employee of Hays Australia or its related bodies corporate has engaged in conduct that:
- Constitutes an offence against various financial sector laws and regulations including the Corporations Act and ASIC Act
- Constitutes an offence against any other law of the Commonwealth that is punishable by imprisonment for a period of 12 months or more; or
- represents a danger to the public or the financial system
A Qualifying Disclosure includes conduct that may not involve a contravention of a particular law.
A disclosure that is not a Qualifying Disclosure does not qualify for protection under the Whistleblowing Regime.
Examples of information that could be considered a Qualifying Disclosure include:
- Dishonest or unethical behaviour
- Fraudulent activity
- Unlawful, corrupt or irregular use of company funds or practices
- Illegal activities (including theft, dealing in or use of illicit drugs, violence or threatened violence and criminal damage against property)
- Improper or misleading accounting or financial reporting practices
- A breach of any legislation relating to Hays’ operations or activities, including but not limited to the Corporations Act
A Discloser can still qualify for protection under the Whistleblowing Regime even if the Qualifying Disclosure turns out to be incorrect.
What is not a Qualifying Disclosure?
Personal work-related grievances of the Discloser that do not concern the alleged conduct referred to above (eg breaching employment or other laws not punishable by imprisonment for a period of 12 months or more) or do not relate to the detriment or the threat of detriment to the Discloser, are excluded from the definition of a Qualifying Disclosure and therefore do not qualify for protection under the Whistleblowing Regime. Examples of personal work-related grievances that would not be a Qualifying Disclosure include:
- An interpersonal conflict between the Discloser and another employee (for example, alleged behaviour such as bullying or harassment by another employee against the Discloser)
- A decision relating to the engagement, transfer or promotion of the Discloser
- A decision relating to the terms and conditions of engagement or employment of the Discloser
- A decision to suspend or terminate the engagement or employment of the Discloser, or otherwise to discipline the Discloser
If you have a personal work-related grievance, please contact your Hays consultant to raise your concern.
You may still be able to access the Whistleblowing Regime protections for a report about your treatment, however, this would be if the report also raises significant implications for Hays. For example, if Hays Australia’s treatment of you suggests systemic misconduct beyond your own circumstances.
How to and whom to report to?
To ensure appropriate escalation and timely investigation of matters under this policy, reports should be made online, by email or by phone to the ‘Safecall’ service. Safecall is free to call and is a confidential service and is a completely independent organisation with impartial staff that are trained to handle these calls. You can phone in total confidence knowing that your call will not be traced or recorded. Safecall takes calls in over 100 languages and operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, giving you maximum flexibility. When a call is made to the hotline, you are likely to be answered by an English speaker who has been trained to recognise your local language. You will then be transferred to someone who will speak your own language. Nevertheless, the English speaker operator will stay in the background to assist the interpreter if needs be.
The Safecall reporting options are
Subject to the protection of identity obligations in the Discloser protections section below, the disclosure will be passed to the Group Company Secretary of Hays plc in the UK and/or Chief Risk Officer of Hays plc in the UK. The details of the disclosure will then be forwarded to a Whistleblower Investigation Officer in Australia for action in accordance with this policy. Our Whistleblower Investigation Officer is Hays Australia’s General Counsel.
There are other individuals who are also eligible to receive reports and who are required to handle that information in accordance with this Policy. This includes Hays Australia’s senior managers (as defined in the Corporations Act), Hays Australia’s officers (being its company directors and company secretary), Hays’ internal auditors who are based in the UK, and external auditors (‘eligible recipients’). All reports received by these eligible recipients will be referred to the Group Company Secretary of Hays plc in the UK in line with Hays Group’s Whistleblower requirements and a Whistleblower Investigation Officer in Australia unless there are exceptional circumstances. Accordingly, we strongly recommend that you make your report via the Safecall service as this is an independent organisation trained to handle these disclosures which can be made anonymously, 24/7.
A Discloser needs to make a disclosure via Safecall or directly to one of the entity’s eligible recipients to be able to qualify for protection as a Whistleblower under the Whistleblowing Regime.
Please be aware that an anonymous disclosure is still protected by the Whistleblowing Regime.
Qualifying Disclosures other than to Safecall or eligible recipients
A Discloser may also make a Qualifying Disclosure to ASIC, APRA, Australian Taxation Office (‘ATO’) (or another Commonwealth body prescribed by regulation), a legal practitioner for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or legal representation regarding the Whistleblowing Regime, and journalists and members of Commonwealth, state or territory parliaments (under certain circumstances set out below) and qualify for protection under the Whistleblowing Regime.
If you wish to seek additional information before formally making a Qualifying Disclosure, you should consider speaking to an independent legal adviser.
A Discloser can choose to remain anonymous while making a disclosure, over the course of the investigation and after the investigation is finalised. Also, a Discloser can refuse to answer questions that they feel could reveal their identity at any time, including during follow-up conversations. If a Discloser wishes to remain anonymous, they should maintain ongoing two-way communication with Hays Australia, so that Hays can ask follow-up questions or provide feedback.
Measures that Hays Australia may use to protect a Discloser’s anonymity could include:
- Communication with a Discloser could be through the Safecall service or anonymised email addresses
- A Discloser may adopt, or be provided with, a pseudonym for the purpose of their disclosure. This may be appropriate in circumstances where the Discloser’s identity is known to the Whistleblower Investigation Officer but prefers not to disclose their identity to others.
Public Interest Disclosures and Emergency Disclosures
A Discloser may make a Qualifying Disclosure to a journalist or parliamentarian under certain circumstances, known as a ‘public interest disclosure’ or ‘emergency disclosure’, and qualify for protection. It is important to understand the criteria for making a public interest or emergency disclosure which is set out below.
A ‘public interest disclosure’ is the disclosure of information to a journalist or a parliamentarian, where:
- At least 90 days have passed since the discloser made the disclosure to ASIC, APRA or another Commonwealth body prescribed by regulation
- The discloser does not have reasonable grounds to believe that action is being, or has been taken, in relation to their disclosure
- The discloser has reasonable grounds to believe that making a further disclosure of the information is in the public interest
- Before making the public interest disclosure, the discloser has given written notice to the body to which the previous disclosure was made that:
- Includes sufficient information to identify the previous disclosure
- States that the discloser intends to make a public interest disclosure
- An ‘emergency disclosure’ is the disclosure of information to a journalist or parliamentarian, where:
- The discloser has previously made a disclosure of the information to ASIC, APRA or another Commonwealth body prescribed by regulation
- 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
- Before making the emergency disclosure, the discloser has given written notice to the body to which the previous disclosure was made that:
- Includes sufficient information to identify the previous disclosure
- States that the discloser intends to make an emergency disclosure
- The extent of the information disclosed in the emergency disclosure is no greater than is necessary to inform the journalist or parliamentarian of the substantial and imminent danger
Please note that a disclosure must have previously been made to ASIC, APRA or a prescribed body and written notice provided to the body to which the disclosure was made before making a public interest or emergency disclosure. Further, in the case of a public interest disclosure, at least 90 days must have passed since the previous disclosure.
Hays’ investigation of a Qualifying Disclosure
The Whistleblower Investigation Officer will determine as soon as practicable whether the disclosure falls within the scope of this Policy and, if so, appoint an investigating officer with no personal interest in the matter to conduct an investigation into the matters disclosed, if they determine this to be necessary and appropriate.
Investigating a disclosure
If it is determined that a disclosure is a Qualifying Disclosure, an investigation will commence, and the investigation process will vary depending on the precise nature of the conduct being investigated. Regardless, the identity of the Discloser will be protected as set out in the Disclosure Protections section below and Hays Australia will investigate all Qualifying Disclosures as soon as practicable. Timeframes of the investigation process will be set after the nature of the conduct is determined, and in any event the timeframe will be set so that a thorough, independent and fair investigation is undertaken as quickly as possible.
If the Qualifying Disclosure is not made on an anonymous basis, the Discloser may be contacted as required to discuss the process of the investigation and request any additional information, which will include matters relevant to the Qualifying Disclosure in order to conduct a fair and objective investigation.
Where a Qualifying Disclosure is made anonymously, the investigation will be conducted based on the information provided and the ability of Hays to undertake its investigation will be limited if Hays is not able to contact the Discloser. As noted below any implicated employee will be informed and provided with an opportunity to respond. Any other relevant persons relating to the incident disclosed will also be interviewed to adequately investigate the disclosed conduct. Relevant authorities will also be contacted if it is determined appropriate depending on the circumstances and nature of the disclosed incident.
Ensuring fair treatment
The investigation will be conducted in a thorough, objective and fair manner. Measures that will be undertaken by Hays Australia to ensure fair treatment of individuals include:
- Disclosures will be handled confidentially, when it is practical and appropriate in the circumstances
- The objective of an investigation is to determine whether there is enough evidence to substantiate or refute the matters reported
- An implicated employee or officer has a right to be informed if they have been adversely mentioned in a Qualifying Disclosure as and when it is appropriate and must be given an opportunity to respond to those allegations and provide additional information prior to any finding being made
Keeping the Discloser informed
A Discloser will be provided with regular updates, if the discloser can be contacted (including through anonymous channels). The frequency and timeframe may vary depending on the nature of the disclosure.
Documenting, reporting and communicating findings
The method for documenting and reporting investigation findings will depend on the nature of the disclosure. Generally, documenting of an investigation and the subsequent report will be undertaken by the Whistleblower Investigation Officers, with the information being securely stored within the legal and/or human resources departments.
Subject to the Protection of the Discloser’s Identity, the outcome of the investigation will be reported to the Hays Australia Board. In addition, again subject to the Protection of the Discloser’s identity, the Hays’ Board will be provided with an annual report on all material Whistleblower matters, including information on the status of investigations underway and outcomes of any investigations completed, and actions taken as a result of those investigations.
Where appropriate, the outcome will also be reported to the Discloser and any persons affected. An example of when it may not be appropriate to notify the Discloser is if the Qualifying Disclosure identifies criminal conduct and as part of police investigations Hays Australia is required to not notify any individuals of the conduct or outcome on an investigation.
A Discloser may raise concerns or complaints regarding this policy or their treatment with Hays Australia’s General Counsel.
Discloser protections: How Hays will protect and support disclosers
Protection of identity
The identity of, or information that is likely to lead to the identity of, a Discloser must be kept confidential, and it is illegal for a person to identify a Discloser or disclose information that is likely to lead to the identification of the Discloser, unless the Discloser has consented to the disclosure, or a permitted exception exits. Permitted exceptions include disclosures to:
- An inhouse or external lawyer to obtain legal advice or legal representation in relation to the Whistleblowing Regime
- ASIC, APRA, ATO or the Australian Federal Police (‘AFP’)
In investigating a matter under this policy, information is permitted to be provided to another party if it does not identify the Discloser, is reasonably necessary for the purposes of investigating the Qualifying Disclosure, and Hays takes all reasonable steps to reduce the risk that the Discloser will be identified.
Examples of how Hays Australia will protect the confidentiality of a Discloser:
- Through the disclosure:
- the Discloser will be referenced in a gender-neutral context
- information regarding the Discloser will be redacted
- if possible, the Discloser will be contacted to identify aspects that may identify them
- disclosures will be handled and investigated by the legal department and human resources department
- Record keeping:
- All documentation relating to a disclosure will be stored securely
- Access to all information will be limited to those managing and investigating the disclosure
- Each person involved in handling the investigation will be reminded about the confidentiality requirements
If you believe that your identity has been disclosed in breach of this protection you can make a complaint for investigation to Hays Australia’s General Counsel. You may also lodge a complaint with a regulator such as ASIC, APRA or the ATO for investigation.
Protection against detrimental conduct
A person cannot engage in conduct that causes detriment to a Discloser (or another person), in relation to a Qualifying Disclosure, if:
- The person believes or suspects that the discloser (or another person) made, may have made, proposes to make or could make a Qualifying Disclosure
- The belief or suspicion is the reason, or part of the reason, for the conduct
In addition, a person cannot make a threat to cause detriment to a Discloser (or another person) in relation to a Qualifying Disclosure.
Detriment to a Discloser may include:
- Dismissal from your employment
- Disadvantaging you in your employment
- Altering your position or duties to your disadvantage
- Discriminating between you and other employees of the same employer
- Harassing or intimidating you
- Harming or injuring you, including causing you psychological harm
- Damaging your property, reputation, business or financial position
- Cause you any other damage
Examples of action that is not detrimental conduct includes (without limitation) managing a Discloser’s unsatisfactory work performance if the action is in line with Hays Australia’s performance management framework.
Examples of how Hays Australia will protect against detrimental conduct include:
- Processes for assessing the risk of detriment against a discloser and other persons (eg other staff who might be suspected to have made a disclosure), will commence as soon as possible after receiving a disclosure
- Immediately after receiving a disclosure ensure that management are aware of their responsibilities to maintain the confidentiality of a disclosure
The Whistleblowing Regime protects a Discloser against certain legal actions related to making the Qualifying Disclosure, including:
- Criminal liability (eg attempted prosecution of the Discloser for unlawfully releasing information (other than for making a false disclosure))
- Civil liability (such as for breach of an employment contract, duty of confidentiality, or other contractual obligation)
- administrative action (eg disciplinary action for making the disclosure)
However, this protection does not grant immunity to the Discloser for any misconduct that the Discloser was involved in that is revealed in the Qualifying Disclosure.
Compensation and other remedies
A Discloser (or any other employee or person) can seek compensation and other remedies through the courts if:
- They suffer loss, damage or injury because of the Qualifying Disclosure;
- Hays Australia failed to take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence to prevent the detrimental conduct
We encourage you to seek independent legal advice before taking any such action.
Please note that the above protections apply not only to internal Qualifying Disclosures, but to disclosures to legal practitioners, regulatory and other external bodies, and public interest and emergency disclosures that are made in accordance with the Whistleblowing Regime.
Hays recognises that ‘whistleblowing’ can be a difficult thing to do. Support available for Disclosers and individuals implicated in a Qualifying Disclosure under this Policy includes:
- Appointing an independent support person to deal with any ongoing concerns they may have
- Connecting the person with third party support providers such as Lifeline (13 11 14) and Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636)
Consequences for non-compliance with the policy
Any breach of this policy by an officer or employee of Hays will be treated as a serious disciplinary matter, which may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal. A breach of this policy may also amount to a civil or criminal contravention under the Whistleblowing Regime, giving rise to significant penalties.
If you need help with this policy
Any questions about this Policy or the Whistleblowing Regime in general should be directed to Hays Australia’s General Counsel.
The General Counsel will review this Policy and its effectiveness every 24 months.
This policy will be made available via the Hays Timesheet Portal and Hays Australia website.
Policy last amended December 2019.