The highest set of whistleblower protections is being implemented across all banks for the benefit of the sector’s 145,000 employees. The objective of this enhanced regime is to ensure bank staff feel confident they can report inappropriate behaviour without fear of adverse consequences.

In December 2016, the Australian Banking Association released new Guiding Principles to help banks ensure their whistleblower policies meet the highest standard. This means, among other things, the whistleblower policy is endorsed by the board of the bank, is monitored for effectiveness, and there is zero tolerance of retaliation against whistleblowers.

The principles were developed following consultations with stakeholders and reviews of whistleblower protection both in Australia and internationally.

In 2016, Promontory Australasia conducted a desktop review of bank whistleblower programs and regulatory requirements in Australia, United States, Canada, United Kingdom and parts of Europe, to establish the core elements of a best-practice whistleblower program. The report with findings is available here.

Banks are reviewing their policies and making any changes to make sure they meet the Guiding Principles. The major banks have all updated their whistleblower policies, and three other banks have done so ahead of the scheduled implementation date of July 2017.

Banks are also contributing to the various reviews and inquiries underway into whistleblowing practices in corporate Australia. Read the ABA’s submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services inquiry into whistleblower protections in the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors here.

Mr Ian McPhee is independently overseeing this initiative as part of the governance of industry reforms announced in April 2016.