Reporting misconduct as a whistleblower

UFS Dispensaries has a whistleblower policy, which is available below.

If you have reasonable grounds to suspect that UFS has been involved in unlawful behavior (including theft, drug abuse, violence or threatened violence or criminal damage), fraud, corrupt conduct such as bribery, false accounting, malpractice, undeclared conflicts of interest, unethical behavior, unsafe work practices, serious misconduct or anything that creates a significant risk to public safety or to the natural environment, you can make a disclosure to the Whistleblower Officer by phone or by submitting a form, either anonymously or not.

To make a disclosure about a serious issue that would be covered by the whistleblower protection legislation, please either call the Whistleblower Officer on 03 5327 7754 during business hours (9am-5.30pm, Monday to Friday) or use the Whistleblower Disclosure Form available here.

If you wish to remain anonymous, please state this at the very beginning of the call (if reporting by phone), or submit the form anonymously.

If your feedback or concern is relating to something other than the items listed above, please call UFS on 03 5327 7777 during business hours (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm), or contact us via the contact form available here.

UFS Whistleblower Policy

1.    Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to:

  • Enable UFS Dispensaries to deal with reports from whistleblowers in a way that will protect the identity of the whistleblower as far as possible and in a timely and appropriate way.
  • Establish a process for protecting whistleblowers against reprisal or other detriment by any person internal or external to UFS Dispensaries.
  • Encourage the reporting of matters that may cause harm to individuals and financial or reputational damage to UFS Dispensaries.
  • To support UFS values and the Code of Conduct.
  • To align with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations and relevant standards.

2.    Scope

This policy covers all employees, contractors, subcontractors, apprentices, trainees, work experience students, volunteers, board directors and anyone that performs duties on behalf of UFS Dispensaries.

Personal work-related grievances that do not relate to detriment or threat of detriment to the discloser, do not qualify for protection under this policy or the Corporations Act.

3.    Definitions

TermDefinition
WorkerEmployees, contractors, subcontractors, apprentices, trainees, work experience students, volunteers, board directors and anyone that performs duties on behalf of UFS Dispensaries.
Whistleblower Officer (WO)Position assigned with Whistleblower responsibilities, currently Employee Services Manager. The Employee Services Manager is an eligible recipient to receive a disclosure that qualifies for protection.
DisclosureWhen a Whistleblower notifies a relevant person of reportable conduct on reasonable grounds.
Reportable ConductInformation that the Whistleblower has reasonable grounds to suspect or have concerns of misconduct, including:

• Unlawful behaviour including theft, drug abuse, violence or threatened violence or criminal damage
• Fraud
• Corrupt conduct such as bribery
• False accounting
• Malpractice
• Unethical behaviour
• Unsafe work practices
• Serious misconduct
• Engaging in or threatening to engage in detrimental conduct against a person who has made a disclosure or is believed or suspected to have made, or planning to make, a disclosure
• Anything that creates a significant risk to public safety or the stability of, or confidence in, the UFS Dispensaries financial system.
• Any other conduct that risks bringing UFS Dispensaries into disrepute or that the Whistleblower reasonably believes should be reported to management.

Legal Practitioners A person who holds a current legal practicing certificate and to who whistleblowers may seek advice from regarding disclosures, whistleblower provisions and other legal matters.
Regulatory and External PartiesCommonwealth bodies prescribed by regulation who qualify for protection under the Corporations Act. These include the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).
Public Interest Disclosures A disclosure can be made to a journalist or parliamentarian under certain circumstances including:

• When at least 90 days have passed since the disclosure has been made to ASIC, APRA or another commonwealth body.
• The discloser has not had reasonable grounds to believe that action is being or has been taken, in relation to their disclosure.
• Further disclosure is in the public interest.
• Before making the public interest disclosure, the discloser has given written notice to UFS Dispensaries that includes sufficient information to identify the previous disclosure and states that the discloser intends to make a public interest disclosure.
• The discloser has reasonable grounds to believe that the information concerns a substantial or imminent danger to the health and safety of one or more persons or the natural environment.
• The extent of the information disclosed in the public interest disclosure is no greater than is necessary to inform the journalist or parliamentarian of the substantial or imminent danger.
• The discloser should seek advice from an independent legal practitioner before making a public interest disclosure

Natural justiceIs the right to be made aware of, and respond to, information which will be used in the course of a decision that will negatively affect the person.
Reasonable groundsThe point where credibility-based probability replaces suspicion.
MisconductFraud, negligence, default, breach of trust and breach of duty.
Work Related GrievancesThis can include:
• Interpersonal conflict.
• A decision that does not breach workplace laws.
• A decision about engagement, transfer or promotions of the discloser.
• A decision regarding terms and conditions of the discloser.
• A decision to suspend or terminate the engagement of the discloser; or otherwise to discipline the discloser.
• An employee may make this type of disclosure or raise any other similar issues by following the grievance and complaints procedure or speaking to Employee Services.
DetrimentIncludes any actual or threatened:
• Dismissal of a worker.
• Injury of a worker in their employment.
• Alteration of a worker’s position or duties to their disadvantage.
• Discrimination of a worker.
• Harassment or intimidation of a worker.
• Psychological harm to a worker.
• Damage to a worker’s property.
• Damage to a worker’s reputation.
• Damage to a worker’s financial positon.
• Any other damage to a worker.

4.    Policy Statement

Reporting of concerns regarding illegal, corrupt, improper or unethical behaviour

4.1 A whistleblower may report any reportable conduct to the Employee Services Manager (WO) as soon as practicable.

4.2 A whistleblower may make a disclosure anonymously, although an anonymous report may impair the ability to investigate the matter.

4.3 On receiving a complaint, the WO will contact the whistleblower (if their identity is disclosed) to notify them that the disclosure has been received and to confirm the details.

Where a worker of UFS Dispensaries believes in good faith and on reasonable grounds that another worker has breached any provision of general law, they may report their concern to:

  • Their supervisor; or, if they feel that their supervisor may be involved in the breach
  • The whistleblower officer (WO) the Employee Services Manager
  • If they feel that their WO may be involved in the breach the CEO
  • If they feel that the CEO may be complicit in the breach
  • The police or authorities responsible for the relevant area.

How to make an anonymous disclosure

A worker can make an anonymous disclosure by:

  1. Completing the UFS Whistleblower Disclosure Form. This disclosure will be sent to the Employee Services Manager via email and does not require any identifiable information unless the whistleblower wishes to include this information.
  2. Contacting the Employee Services Manager by phone and opening the conversation by saying that they wish to make an anonymous disclosure.
  3. If the whistleblower wishes to make a disclosure to someone other than the Employee Services Manager they can report this directly to the CEO.

Identity protection

UFS has a legal obligation to protect the confidentiality of a whistleblower who wishes to remain anonymous. The WO or any employees who receive an anonymous disclosure cannot disclose the identity of a whistleblower, or disclose any information that is likely to lead to the identification of the whistleblower.

An employee of UFS may disclose the information contained in the disclosure with or without the whistleblower’s consent if:

  • The information does not disclose the whistleblower’s identity
  • The information is reasonably necessary for investigating the issue raised in the disclosure and UFS Dispensaries has taken all reasonable steps to reduce the risk that the whistleblower will be identified from the information.

If information that is likely to identify the whistleblower is disclosed, the whistleblower has the right to lodge a complaint to UFS Dispensaries or with an external regulator such as ASIC, APRA or the Australian Taxation Office for investigation.

Examples of how UFS will protect the whistleblower’s identity:

  • Witness statements from the whistleblower may be redacted
  • The whistleblower may be referred to in a gender neutral way
  • Disclosures will only be managed by trained and qualified staff
  • All documentation and statements will be stored securely
  • Information regarding the disclosure and subsequent investigation will be kept confidential
  • Any printing will be done using the secure print function
  • Each person involved in the process will be reminded of their confidentiality requirements, including that it may be considered a criminal offence if an unauthorised disclosure of a whistleblower’s identity is made.

The whistleblower shall not suffer any negative consequences or threat thereof as long as their actions are:

  • In good faith; and
  • Based on reasonable grounds; and
  • Conform to the designated policies and procedures.

Examples of the types of negative consequences include, but are not limited to;

  • Dismissal of a worker
  • Injury of a worker in their employment
  • Alteration of a worker’s position or duties, to their disadvantage
  • Discrimination of a worker
  • Harassment or intimidation of a worker
  • Psychological harm to a worker
  • Damage to a worker’s property
  • Damage to a worker’s reputation
  • Damage to a worker’s financial position
  • Any other damage to a worker.

A worker may seek compensation and independent legal advice and other remedies through the courts if:

  • They suffer loss, damage or injury because of a disclosure; and
  • UFS fails to take reasonable precautions to exercise due diligence to prevent the detrimental conduct.

The whistleblower is also protected against:

  • Civil liabilities.
  • Criminal liabilities, and
  • Administrative liabilities (such as disciplinary action), however these protections do not grant immunity for any misconduct a whistleblower has engaged in that is revealed in their disclosure.

Any person within the organisation to whom such a disclosure is made shall:

  • Dismiss the allegation if they believe the behaviour reported to be unquestionably trivial or fanciful, and notify the person making the allegation of their decision
  • Where they believe the behaviour complained of to be neither trivial nor fanciful, ensure that the allegation is investigated, a finding is made, and the person making the allegation is informed of the finding.

Any such investigation shall observe the rules of natural justice and the provisions of procedural fairness.

The process of investigation

Once a disclosure has been made it will be the responsibility of the whistleblower officer to conduct an investigation. This will involve gathering as much information as necessary and may include:

  • Collecting documentary evidence
  • Interviewing any witness/es (where applicable)
  • Interviewing the respondent/s, and giving them an opportunity to: put forward their version of events, any mitigating circumstances, and to respond to all the evidence provided. In additional to their verbal response, the respondent may wish to submit a written response to the allegations. The respondent must advise of their intention to do so and should be allowed five working days to submit their response.

In some cases, disciplinary action or criminal investigations may be warranted.

The WO will complete a detailed report, summarising the allegations, evidence collected, and the possible resolution for an outcome. All evidence and statements will be stored securely in the WO office.

If the WO/CEO determines that the allegations raised by the whistleblower are substantiated, then actions may be taken to:

  • Protect the whistleblower from negative consequences of making a disclosure
  • Support the whistleblower by offering counselling through the Employee Assistance Program
  • Initiate disciplinary proceedings (refer to UFS Disciplinary Procedure), and/or
  • Take any other action they deem appropriate.

At times it may be necessary for the WO or CEO to engage an external investigator to conduct the investigation in order to ensure that the process is objective, fair and independent.

Alternatively the CEO may determine that the allegations raised by the whistleblower cannot be substantiated or are not genuine, i.e. it is frivolous, malicious, and vexatious; it has not been lodged in good faith or is not related to the complainant’s employment relationship with UFS.

At the conclusion of the determination process, the WO will write to both the whistleblower and the respondent/s indicating the outcome, the reason for the decision and any specific action to be taken. A copy of this correspondence, together with any associated documentation, will be securely stored in a confidential file in the WO’s office, which is separate from any personnel files.

False and/or malicious complaints

Complainants can sometimes use emotive language that may lead the WO to believe the complaint is malicious or motivated by vindictiveness. Although a complainant’s motive may sometimes be questionable, it should not preclude a proper consideration of the substance of the complaint. Careful analysis should be made to determine the key issues, which should then be assessed on their merits.

Similarly, in instances where a complainant has previously made a complaint that was found to be false or frivolous, no assumptions should be made about any new complaints.

Where a complaint is found to be false and there is evidence of frivolous, malicious or vexatious intent on the part of the complainant, disciplinary action may be taken.

5.    Responsibilities

The Employee Services Manager is responsible for the development, review and implementation of this Policy. The Employee Services Manager and the UFS Leadership Team are responsible for ensuring all employees, contractors, subcontractors, apprentices, trainees, work experience students, volunteers, and board of directors are familiar with this Policy and the UFS Code of Conduct and Behaviour.

This may be by, but is not limited to, the following methods:

  • Online training and webinars that are compulsory for all workers and conducted on a regular basis
  • Discussing the policy at staff meetings
  • Distributing the policy via the UFS newsletter
  • Having the policy easily accessible on the UFS intranet and on the UFS website
  • Referencing the policy in the employee handbook
  • Including information about the policy in the new employee induction.

Managers have a responsibility to:

  • be a role-model for appropriate standards of behaviour and conduct
  • ensure that they are familiar with this Policy, and the UFS Grievance and Complaints Procedure, so that they can deal with issues and queries effectively
  • make sure that neither the work environment, nor work processes, make it easy for breaches of this Policy to occur
  • take action to ensure their employees are aware of their rights and obligations under this Policy and the law
  • intervene promptly and appropriately when they witness, or are told about, inappropriate behaviour or conduc.
  • assist staff in informal resolution of complaints (where appropriate).

Workers have a responsibility to:

  • understand and abide by the standards of behaviour and conduct outlined in this Policy, the UFS Code of Conduct and Behaviour and the law, and
  • treat everyone with dignity, courtesy and respect, and.
  • report any misconduct and illegal behaviour, and
  • offer support and referral to the victims of any unacceptable conduct that they witness, and
  • respect the confidentiality of the grievance resolution and whistleblower process.

6.    Legislative Context

  • Corporations Act 2001
  • Taxation Administration Act 1953
  • The Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001
  • The Banking Act 1959
  • The Financial Sector Act 2001
  • The Insurance Act 1973
  • The Life Insurance Act 1995
  • The National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009
  • The Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993
  • The Privacy Act 1998
  • ASIC Corporations (Whistleblower Policies Instrument 2019/114
  • Australian Federal Police Act 1979
  • Fair Work Act 2009
  • Taxation Administration Act 1997
  • Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019
  • Whistleblower Protections Bill
  • Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act 1975
  • Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act 1984
  • Commonwealth Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986
  • Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992
  • Commonwealth Disability Standards for Education 2005
  • Commonwealth Racial Hatred Act 1995
  • Commonwealth Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999
  • Commonwealth Age Discrimination Act 2004
  • Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 1995
  • Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001
  • Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006

7.    Associated Documents

The documents listed below should be considered in conjunction with this policy:

  • UFS Equal Opportunity: Anti-Discrimination, Anti-Harassment and Anti-Bullying Procedure
  • UFS OH&S Policy
  • UFS Grievance and Complaints Procedure
  • UFS Disciplinary Procedure
  • UFS Code of Conduct and Behaviour
  • UFS Privacy Policy