Whistleblowers Policy

Policy Statement

Uniting Church SA values people and is committed to providing and maintaining a safe, healthy and productive workplace for all personnel and other persons involved in its activities. A safe work place will be achieved in accordance with the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2012 (SA).

Uniting Church SA in its commitment to a safe and healthy workplace, has established the following Whistleblowers Policy in accordance with the Whistleblowers Protection Act and Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2012 (SA). This policy outlines that Uniting Church SA believes in strong ethical values of integrity and honesty in our ministry and work practices. It also provides a mechanism in which personnel can disclose information and how a disclosure will be managed by Uniting Church SA.

Policy

Introduction

The basic objectives of the Uniting Church in South Australia Whistleblowers Policy are:

• to make personnel aware of their rights under the Whistleblowers Protection Act;
• to encourage the Disclosure of Public Interest Information about Maladministration and waste in the Church and corrupt or illegal conduct generally consistent with the Act; and
• provide the means by which direct Disclosures may be made, and protection for those personnel who make them.


Definitions for the Purpose of this Policy

‘Act’ means the Whistleblowers Protection Act 1993.
‘Church’ means the Uniting Church in South Australia.
‘Disclosure’ means disclosure of Public Interest Information.
‘Maladministration’ includes impropriety or negligence.‘
‘Personnel’ as defined in A Foreword - Workplace Policies & Procedures. This includes employees, people in specified ministries [Ministers of the Word [MOW] and Deacons) and volunteers.
‘Public Interest Information’ means information which tends to show that an adult person, body corporate or government agency has been involved in:

  • illegal activity; 
  • substantial mismanagement of Church resources;
  • theft or fraudulent behaviour;
  • substantial risk to public health, safety or the environment; or
  • irregular/unauthorised use of Church money;
  • or that personnel are guilty of Maladministration.

‘Reporting Officer’ means the senior Personnel nominated by the Church to receive and process complaints.
‘Supervisor’ means a direct reporting manager of personnel
‘Victimisation’ includes:

  • injury, damage or loss;
  • intimidation or harassment;
  • discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to personnel employment and engagement with the Church; or threats of reprisal.
  • ‘Whistleblower’ means any personnel who Discloses Public Interest Information to the Church or authorities.

 

1. Responsibilities of Supervisors


1.1 Supervisors of personnel making Disclosures should be aware that discriminatory, intimidating or retaliatory treatment of the informant may result in legal action and the possibility of paying compensation to Personnel victimised.

1.2 It is the Church’s responsibility to:

• create awareness of this Policy for:
­ dealing with Disclosures, both from Personnel and other parties; and
­ protecting informants from Victimisation;
• educate personnel in matters relating to the Act;
• to the extent provided for by the Act, protect the privacy of those personnel making Disclosures (usually by keeping their identity confidential), except so far as may be necessary to ensure that the matters to which the information relates are properly investigated);
• make available a trained Reporting Officer who will:
­ manage Disclosures;
­ keep informants informed about the progress and outcomes of their Disclosure; and
­ provide support for personnel who may have fears for the well-being of themselves or others.

1.3 Member of personnel nominated as the Reporting Officer will:

• listen to the Disclosure without judgement, explain what they intend to do and hear the concerns that personnel express regarding the consequences of the Disclosure;
• keep the information confidential and carefully consider who they discuss the matter with, keeping the matter contained and only involving others on a clear ‘need to know’ basis;
• initiate enquiries, and where appropriate, refer the Disclosure to a ‘relevant authority’ for investigation; and
• take action to protect the individual concerned from Victimisation.

• where the disclosure creates a duty for the Reporting Officer under other legislation such as the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA), the role of the Reporting Officer does not diminish their duty to take steps to comply with such a duty, for example reporting a risk to the health or safety of a person to the employer.

1.4 There is an obligation under the Act for the Church to maintain the confidentiality of the informant as far as possible. This means that the Reporting Officer will need to be scrupulous in their dealings with personnel who make Disclosures and, only involve others when it is reasonably necessary to fully investigate the matter.

1.5 There is also an obligation to keep informants apprised of the outcomes of their Disclosures. In some situations the need for an investigation to be kept confidential may override this requirement. Nevertheless, the Reporting Officer should be able to assure Whistleblowers about the progress being made and actively keep in contact with personnel concerned on at least a monthly basis.

1.6 While the Act is framed to protect Whistleblowers, Supervisors need to be sensitive to those who are the subject of a Disclosure. Claims made against people can be extremely damaging to them, both on a personal and professional basis.

1.7 The privacy of personnel should be protected as much as possible, and any investigation managed sensitively until the facts of the claims can be properly established.

1.8 Except as provided by 3.4 of this policy, personnel anonymity and confidentiality will be capable of protection in accordance with the Act, where their Disclosure involves matters that are consistent with the definition of Public Interest Information. In the normal course of work, personnel should be aware that they have a statutory duty under legislation such as the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) for their safety, the safety of others and their duty to comply with their employer’s directions and instructions regarding health and safety (“Personnel WHS duty”).

1.9 The WHS duty of Personnel is likely to include informing the employer about hazards that have been identified in the workplace that could give rise to risks to health and safety. In the normal course of events personnel WHS duty is not diminished by their intention to gain Whistleblowers protection. Action to manage the risks to health and safety should not be delayed by personnel seeking anonymity and confidentiality under the Act.

1.10 Common workplace hazards such as bullying / harassment, hazardous manual tasks or a trip hazard would not normally meet the test of a ‘substantial risk to public health, safety or environment’ and therefore would not normally attract the anonymity or confidentiality envisaged by the Act. In cases of doubt the Supervisor or Reporting Officer should advise Personnel making the Disclosure of this potential before personnel disclose the details of the Disclosure.


2 Responsibilities of Personnel


2.1 Personnel should disclose information in general about illegal activities or corruption they encounter, or more specifically about Maladministration or waste within the Church, to the Reporting Officer.

2.2 The Reporting Officer is the CEO / General Secretary or their delegate, to whom Disclosures should be made. In matters where a Disclosure is made against the CEO / General Secretary, the Moderator or their delegate is the appointed Reporting Officer to whom Disclosures should be made.

2.3 Personnel are not required to approach the designated Reporting Officer. However, if an approach is made to the Reporting Officer, protection, if applicable under the Act, will be provided (see also 2.7).

2.4 If a Disclosure is made to someone other than an appropriate authority or Reporting Officer, protection will depend on the circumstance of the case.

2.5 Where the Reporting Officer is personally known to the informant, that informant will have to make their own assessment as to the person to whom they would prefer to entrust the matter.

2.6 Informants are obliged to assist in any investigation.

2.7 Personnel anonymity and confidentiality will be capable of protection, as far as provided by the Act, where their Disclosure involves matters that are consistent with the definition of Public Interest Information.

2.8 The WHS duty of Personnel is likely to include Personnel informing the employer about hazards that have been identified in the workplace that could give rise to risks to health and safety. In the normal course of events Personnel WHS duty is not diminished by their intention to gain Whistleblowers protection and action to manage the risks to health and safety should not be delayed by Personnel seeking anonymity and confidentiality under the Act.

2.9 Common workplace hazards such as bullying / harassment, hazardous manual tasks or a trip hazard would not normally meet the test of a ‘substantial risk to public health, safety or environment’ and therefore would not normally attract the anonymity or confidentiality envisaged by the Act. In cases of doubt the Supervisor or Reporting Officer should advise Personnel making the Disclosure of this potential before the Personnel discloses the details of the Disclosure.

2.10 Personnel who disclose Public Interest Information must assist with any investigation of the matters to which the information relates by the police or any other official investigating authority. Personnel, where they have reasonable grounds, are not obliged to assist with an investigation by an authority or body to which, or a person to whom, the Public Interest Information relates. Personnel who fail, without reasonable grounds, to assist with any investigation into the matters to which the information relates forfeits the protection of this Act. 


3 Protections


3.1 The Act protects persons from any civil or criminal action in relation to the information they disclose, as long as it is disclosed in accordance with the Act.

32 The Act protects persons from any Victimisation as a result of the disclosure they make and it protects any associate of the person who makes the disclosure.

3.3 Experience elsewhere has shown that people who make disclosures are often subject to Victimisation for their actions. An integral part of the management of a Disclosure is to ensure all parties are aware that this behaviour is illegal, with the Church and individual personnel potentially liable to pay compensation or offer some other form of redress.

3.4 The Act does not protect a person who knowingly make false claims or who are reckless about whether their claims are false. Such persons are liable for prosecution.


4 Policy Implementation


This policy is to be implemented through the procedures and arrangements established under the UCSAs Human Resources Management policy development and communication processes.

Dissemination of Policy

A copy of this policy will be made available to all Uniting Church SA personnel and other persons where required.

The intent of the policy will be explained to each new personnel at their induction and to other persons as necessary.

Monitoring and Review

This policy will be reviewed in accordance with legislation changes and Uniting Church SA policy review procedures.

5 References

  • Work Health and Safety Act 2012
  • Whistleblowers Protection Act 1993 (SA)


Executive Officer, Resources