Whistleblower Protection Policy | Vision Hospital Group Day Surgeries

Quick links

  1. Introduction
  2. Scope
  3. Responsibilities
  4. Instructions and information
  5. Reporting
  6. Confidentiality & protection
  7. After a report is made
  8. Access to this policy
  9. Grievance resolution
  10. Review of policy
  11. Consequences of breaching this policy

1. Introduction

Vision Hospital Group (VHG) will not tolerate unlawful or unacceptable conduct by any Workplace Participant so we encourage and support the disclosure of such conduct by providing protections to Eligible Whistleblowers who make Protected Disclosures. This Whistleblower Protection Policy (Policy) documents VHG’s commitment to maintaining a working environment in which Workplace Participants are encouraged to raise concerns regarding actual or suspected contraventions of our ethical and legal standards without fear of reprisal or feeling threatened by doing so. In particular, this Policy aims to:

  1. encourage the reporting of breaches, or suspected breaches, of laws and associated company policies;
  2. outline who disclosures should be made to and how VHG will investigate protected disclosures (including how VHG will ensure fair treatment of employees of VHG who are mentioned in protected disclosures or to whom such disclosures relate);
  3. ensure that breaches of law or company policy or instances of misconduct or unethical behaviour are identified and dealt with appropriately;
  4. identify and remedy any systematic problems with compliance; and
  5. outline protections available to Whistleblowers and how VHG will support Whistleblowers.

2. Scope

This Policy applies to all current and former employees and officers of VHG (whether full time, part time or casual), contractors (including doctors), consultants, service providers and suppliers of VHG, as well as relatives, spouses or dependents of all those mentioned.

In this policy all such persons are referred to as "Eligible Person".

3. Responsibilities

VHG Board
Has the responsibility of making a final determination of an outcome if and only when a discloser is dissatisfied with the response tendered to them by the assigned investigator.

Has a responsibility for determining corrective action in relation to protected disclosures.

Company Secretary
Has responsibility for determining whether a Disclosure constitutes a Protected Disclosure, conducting or delegating investigations into Protected Disclosures, making recommendations to the CEO where appropriate and ensuring welfare of Eligible Whistleblowers.

Eligible Recipient
Has responsibility for:

  • Receiving Disclosures from Disclosers
  • Maintaining the confidentiality of the identity of the Discloser and confirming their welfare until they have notified the Company Secretary etc; and
  • Notifying the Company Secretary or if appropriate, the CEO or National People & Culture Manager of the Disclosure.

Eligible Whistleblower
Has responsibility for making disclosures about Reportable Conduct to Eligible Recipients where there is reasonable grounds to do so.

Workplace Participants
Have responsibility for:

  • Speaking up and identifying any Reportable Conduct;
  • Refraining from engaging in Reportable Conduct;
  • Not taking any Detrimental Action against an Eligible Whistleblower because the Eligible Whistleblower has, may have made, proposes to make or could make a Protected Disclosure;
  • Participating openly, honestly and to the best of their ability in an investigation into a Protected Disclosure.

4. Instructions & information

4.1 What is a reportable matter

All employees of VHG have a responsibility to help ensure compliance with our ethical and legal obligations. If you become aware of a breach, or if you suspect a breach, of law or associated company policy or an instance of misconduct or unethical behaviour you must report it in accordance with this Policy. For the purposes of this Policy, Reportable Matters may include any actual or suspected:

  1. conduct or practices which are illegal or breach any law, including but not limited to any breaches of the Trade Practices Act and the Corporations Act;
  2. breach of any of VHG’s policies or procedures;
  3. improper or unethical behaviour, including bullying and harassment;
  4. dishonest, corrupt or criminal conduct or activities;
  5. financial irregularity (including theft, fraud or misappropriation);
  6. significant mismanagement or waste of funds or resources;
  7. abuse of authority;
  8. serious harm to public health, safety or environment or the health and safety of any VHG employee;
  9. any action taken against, or harm suffered by an employee as a result of making or intending to make a report under this Policy; or
  10. any conduct that is a deliberate cover up of any of the above.

4.2 What is not a Reportable Matter

Reportable Matters do not generally include Personal Work-Related Grievances.

Personal Work-Related Grievances are grievances relating to a person’s current or former employment or association with VHG which have, or tend to have, implications for that person but do not:

  • Have significant implications for VHG or its activities; or
  • Relate to any conduct, or alleged conduct, regarding a Reportable Matter.

Examples of Personal Work-Related Grievances include, but are not limited to:

  1. An interpersonal conflict between the discloser and another employee or associate;
  2. A decision relating to the engagement, employment, transfer, or promotion of the discloser;
  3. A decision relating to the terms and conditions of the engagement or employment of the discloser; and
  4. A decision to suspend or terminate the engagement or employment of the discloser, or otherwise to discipline the discloser.

Disclosures relating to these matters should be reported through line management and internal reporting channels. Disclosures relating to these matters do not qualify for Whistleblower Protection under this Policy or Australian laws.

4.3 Disclosing in Good Faith and on Reasonable Grounds

A disclosure may have serious consequences, including potential damage to the reputation of people who are the subject of allegations. Therefore, it is important that those who make a disclosure under this policy do so in good faith, and with Reasonable Grounds for believing that the information being reported is true or likely to be true.

Reasonable grounds means that a reasonable person in your position would also suspect the information indicates a Reportable Matter or a breach of the law.

4.4 Deliberate False Reporting

Disclosures found to involve malicious, false or vexatious allegations may result in disciplinary action up to termination, against the discloser.

5. Reporting

5.1 Internal Reporting Channels

If an Eligible Person becomes aware of any matter or behaviour which they believe constitutes a Reportable Matter, they can make a report in writing or in person to an Eligible Recipient including:

  • The Company Secretary;
  • A senior executive of VHG; or
  • The National People & Culture Manager; or
  • An officer of VHG, including the Chief Executive Officer

Disclosures may also be made to VHG’s auditor, ShineWing Australia or to ASIC (Australian Securities & Investments Commission).

VHG has nominated the Company Secretary as the Whistleblower Disclosure Officer (WDO) and Eligible Persons are encouraged to make reports to them by telephone, email, or in writing to the address below.

Karen Lopreiato – Company Secretary
Telephone: 03 8844 4000
Email: [email protected]
Address: Level 13, 412 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Victoria, 3004

Eligible Persons may also disclose information to a Legal Practitioner only for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or legal representation in respect of the application of the Whistleblower Laws under the Corporations Act to the Reportable Matter.

If an Eligible Person is in doubt about how or to whom they may report a Reportable Matter & if the protections of the Whistleblower Laws apply, they should consider obtaining independent legal advice prior to making the report.

VHG encourages all Reportable Matters to be directed through our internal channels as outlined at 5.1 above, in the first instance. This allows VHG an opportunity to identify and address wrongdoing as early as possible and is intended to help VHG build confidence and trust in our Whistleblower policy, processes and procedures.

5.2 Emergency & Public Interest Disclosures

In certain limited circumstances such as if the Reportable Matter has an imminent risk of causing harm or danger to public health or safety, an Emergency or Public Interest Disclosure can be made to a journalist or a Member of Parliament as a last resort when all other avenues have been exhausted.

These reports may be protected under the Whistleblower Laws and this Policy, where certain circumstances are met. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to Emergency or Public Interest Disclosures.

A ‘public interest disclosure’ is the disclosure of information to a journalist or a parliamentarian, where:

  1. at least 90 days have passed since the discloser made the disclosure to ASIC, APRA (Australian Prudential Regulation Authority) or another Commonwealth body prescribed by regulation;
  2. the discloser does not have reasonable grounds to believe that action is being, or has been taken, in relation to their disclosure

5.3 External Reporting Channels

VHG has an external and independent Whistleblower service dedicated to receiving reports from Eligible Persons where they do not wish to report using internal channels.

ProAct Link Whistleblower service can be used to report externally for all concerns where the discloser wishes to report anonymously or externally to a channel that is independent of their employer, VHG or its associated entities.

Disclosures can be made directly to ProAct Link, which is operated by Proactive Strategies. ProAct Link is an Eligible Recipient under this policy.

ProAct Link reporting options are available 24/7:

Online: www.proactlink.com.au
Phone: 1800 888 340
Email: [email protected]
Disclosers will be responded to by experienced investigators.

You can identify yourself or remain anonymous when you make a report to ProAct Link. If you disclose your identity to ProAct Link, you can request that your identity not be disclosed to VHG. ProAct Link will not disclose your identity to VHG without your consent unless it is legally required to do so.

5.4 Anonymous Reporting

Disclosures can be made anonymously if preferred and will still qualify for the protections under the Whistleblower Laws where the disclosure qualifies as a Protected Disclosure.

Anonymous reports can be made to an Eligible Recipient or to ProAct Link. However, anonymous reports may limit the ability for VHG to investigate and to investigate fully and to provide protections to the discloser.

5.5 Receiving a Report

If you are the person that a report is made to, and you believe that behaviour reported may be regarding a Reportable Matter under this Policy:

  1. Notify the Whistleblower Disclosure Officer and report the information received to them, OR
  2. Report the information to ProAct Link.
    Do not discuss the report or the identity of the person making the report with anyone else.

Unauthorised disclosure of the Whistleblowers identity or information from which the identity of the Whistleblower could be inferred, will be regarded as a disciplinary matter, and will be dealt with in accordance with VHG’s disciplinary procedures.

5.6 When is a Report a Protected Disclosure

For a report to be a Protected Disclosure under this policy, (and therefore provide the discloser with protections under the Whistleblower Laws), the person disclosing must be an Eligible Person (see clause 2) who:

  1. Reports conduct that is a Reportable Matter
  2. Reports based on Reasonable Grounds
  3. Makes the report in accordance with this policy to an Eligible Recipient (see clause 5.1).
    A Person who has themselves been involved in a Reportable Matter being disclosed by them will not be included in these protections.

6. Confidentiality and protection

6.1 Protection for Whistleblowers

In accordance with the requirements of the Whistleblower Laws, VHG will provide protections for an Eligible Person making a Protected Disclosure in good faith, on reasonable grounds and in accordance with this policy.

These protections include:

  • Identity protection (confidentiality);
  • Protection from detrimental acts or omissions;
  • Compensation and remedies; and
  • Civil, criminal, and administrative liability protections.

VHG’s priority is to protect the identity and confidentiality of a person who raises concerns or makes a disclosure.

Those involved in the investigation or handling of a report, including witnesses, are also required to maintain confidentiality and are not to disclose information about an investigation of a disclosure, or allegations to any person, except for those people responsible for handling, responding to, or investigating the report.

6.2 Identity Protection

The identity of the discloser (and any information VHG may have regarding the disclosure that could be used to identify the discloser) will only be disclosed if:

  • The information disclosed is not your identity;
  • You give consent to VHG to disclose that information;
  • The disclosure is permitted or required by the law (e.g., disclosure by VHG to a legal practitioner for the purposes of obtaining legal advice regarding whistleblowing);
  • It is reasonably necessary to disclose the information for the purposes of an investigation, provided all reasonable steps are taken to prevent someone working out your identity;
  • Disclosure is necessary to prevent a serious threat to any person’s health or safety; or
  • It is necessary to protect or enforce VHG’s legal rights or interests or to defend any claims.

VHG will take all reasonable steps to ensure that access to information received as part of a disclosure is restricted to only those involved in the investigation or resolution of the matter.

6.3 Protection of Whistleblowers from Detrimental Acts

You will not be discriminated against or disadvantaged in your employment or other contractual arrangements with VHG for making a report in accordance with this Policy, nor will you receive reprisals due to your actions in making such a report. This includes (but is not limited to) protection from:

  • termination of employment, demotion, or disciplinary action;
  • performance management;
  • harassment or bullying;
  • personal or financial disadvantage;
  • unlawful discrimination; or
  • any other conduct that constitutes retaliation.

VHG will take all reasonable steps to ensure that adequate and appropriate protection is being provided for an Eligible Person who reports a Reportable Matter. This protection applies if the matter is proven or not, regardless of whether it is reported to an external authority. VHG will safeguard your interests, having regard to this Policy, the Australian Standard on Whistleblower Protection Programs for Entities, and any other applicable policies and laws.

However, this Policy will not protect the Whistleblower if they are also involved in or connected to the improper conduct or illegal activities that are being reported.

Detrimental conduct does not include reasonable administrative actions and managing an Eligible Whistleblowers
unsatisfactory work performance.

6.4 Other Protections

You will be protected from any of the following in relation to a Protected Disclosure:

  • Civil liability (e.g., any legal action against the discloser for breach of an employment contract, duty of confidentiality or another contractual obligation);
  • Criminal liability (e.g., attempted prosecution of the discloser for unlawfully releasing information, or other use of the disclosure against the discloser in a prosecution (other than for making a false disclosure); and
  • Administrative liability (e.g., disciplinary action for making the disclosure).

The protections do not grant immunity for any misconduct you may have engaged in, that is revealed in the disclosure.

You can also seek compensation and other remedies through the courts if you have suffered loss or injury because of the disclosure or if VHG failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent the detrimental conduct.

You can still qualify for the protections under this Policy even if the disclosure turns out to be incorrect or if your legal practitioner has advised you that the disclosure is not a Reportable Matter.

A Whistleblower who has made a Protected Disclosure, must at all times during the reporting process and any resulting investigation process, continue to comply with this Policy.

7. After a report is made

As part of the initial review of the disclosure, an assessment will be made of the potential risk of breach of confidentiality regarding your identity, and risk of detriment to you.

Decisions regarding response and investigation methods will be made in consideration of these risks, and suitable measures will be considered and implemented to mitigate these risks as required.

7.1 Investigation of Reports

Where the disclosure assessment indicates an investigation is practical and appropriate, an investigation will be undertaken.

The VHG Whistleblower Disclosure Officer will review the report and escalate through senior line management as appropriate and coordinate any required investigations. VHG may engage the services of independent investigators as required and appropriate.

Any such investigation shall observe the rules of natural justice and the provisions of procedural fairness towards the persons whose conduct the report relates. Unless there are confidentiality or other considerations that preclude it, persons to whom the report relates will be informed of any allegation at an appropriate time and given the chance to respond to those allegations prior to any actions being taken which may impact on their employment or relationship with VHG.

The investigation process will be conducted so as to protect all paper and electronic documents and other materials relating to the disclosure from unauthorised access.

At the conclusion of the investigation, where you have provided an avenue to contact you, we will report to you on the outcome of the investigation subject to privacy considerations. If you are dissatisfied with the response tendered to you, you may request that the complaint be reviewed by the Board of VHG. Following its review, the Board will notify you of its decision.

8. Access to this policy

VHG’s employees will be made aware and have access to this policy and the mechanisms for disclosing of a Reportable Matter through VHG’s induction and ongoing awareness programs.

The Policy will be available for viewing by any Eligible Person on the VHG’s intranet site and in hard copy at VHG’s Head Office.

This policy will also be available to disclosers who are not directly employed by VHG through publication on the company website at visionhospitalgroup.com.au.

9. Grievance resolution

Any employee grievance arising from the implementation of this policy may follow the usual resolution process outlined in the Employee Grievance Policy.

10. Review of policy

The policy will be reviewed for effectiveness on a bi-annual basis, or earlier as deemed necessary.

11. Consequences of breaching this policy

Non-compliance with any component of this policy will be treated seriously and, depending on the circumstances, performance management processes may be implemented.