We are committed to the aims and objectives of state and federal legislation that protects whistleblowers. Mercy Health does not tolerate improper conduct by its employees, officers or contractors, or reprisals against those who come forward to report improper conduct.
State and federal whistleblower legislation aims to protect people who make recognised whistleblower disclosures.
The types of disclosures that attract whistleblower protections are generally those concerning conduct that is serious or illegal (Improper Conduct). Corrupt conduct or substantial mismanagement of public or company resources are also examples of Improper Conduct.
Any person can report Improper Conduct to Mercy Health or to a relevant government agency. However, not every person, and not every complaint or disclosure, will trigger statutory whistleblower protections. For example, most personal work-related grievances will not attract whistleblower protections.
As a general rule, whistleblower protections are only available where an individual discloses the Improper Conduct to Mercy Health or a relevant government agency (as appropriate and described below).
There are three ways to report Improper Conduct at Mercy Health. These are:
- Directly to a member of Mercy Health’s Executive team;
- Via the Mercy Health Whistleblower Hotline (Hotline); and
- Directly to a relevant government agency.
Mercy Health welcomes reporting of Improper Conduct to Mercy Health, and has established the Hotline to facilitate the making of disclosures of Improper Conduct and other serious wrongdoing. Information about the Hotline is available at https://mercyhealth.stoplinereport.com/.
Under federal (Commonwealth) law, a disclosure of Improper Conduct attracts whistleblower protection if it is made to certain persons or entities, such as to a member of Mercy Health’s Executive or via the Hotline. Disclosures can also be made directly to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).
If a disclosure concerns a state-funded Mercy Health service in Victoria, New South Wales or Western Australia, statutory whistleblower protections under state law will generally only apply if the disclosure is made directly to the relevant state agency. These agencies are:
- Victoria – the Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC);
- New South Wales – the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC); and
- Western Australia – the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC)
For example, disclosure of Improper Conduct involving one of Mercy Health’s publicly-funded hospitals in Victoria would need to be made directly to IBAC if the whistleblower was seeking protections contained in Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 (Vic).
Further information about whistleblower protections, including the type of complaints that can be made to the different agencies and the statutory protections that may apply is available at the following agency websites:
Additional information about disclosures relevant to Mercy Health’s business is available on the Hotline website at https://mercyhealth.stoplinereport.com/
While Mercy Health encourages the reporting of Improper Conduct, individuals may wish to seek legal advice before making a disclosure to ensure they understand the legal protections available to them.
In certain cases, it may be possible to make an anonymous disclosure. The agency websites above contain information about making an anonymous disclosure to those agencies. Anonymous, de-identified or confidential disclosures may also be made directly to Mercy Health or via the Hotline. A person choosing to make an anonymous, de-identified or confidential disclosure must be aware that:
- The nature of the information provided may reveal the identity of the whistleblower;
- It may be difficult to fully investigate an anonymous complaint;
- Mercy Health, its officers and employees will not be liable if the identity of an anonymous, de-identified or confidential whistleblower is, or becomes ascertainable as a consequence of any investigation, or through the actions of the whistleblower; and
- Mercy Health cannot enforce statutory whistleblower protections if the whistleblower’s identity is unknown.
Investigation by Mercy Health
If Mercy Health receives a report of Improper Conduct it will follow its internal processes. It will also comply with any applicable state or federal law regarding whistleblower disclosures.
Investigations conducted by Mercy Health will, as far as possible, be thorough, objective and fair, while preserving the confidentiality of any investigation.
Mercy Health will, where it considers it necessary, seek external advice and assistance in an investigation.
Mercy Health does not tolerate detrimental action being taken against any person in relation to the making of a whistleblower disclosure protected by law.
The following information sets out Mercy Health’s procedure for the protection of persons from detrimental action.
Officers and employees of Mercy Health should consult the Mercy Health Whistleblower Policy and Procedure for additional information.
Procedure for the protection of persons from detrimental action
Detrimental action prohibited
All staff and volunteers are expected to be aware that criminal penalties may apply if an individual takes, or threatens to take, detrimental action against a person. In this context, ‘detrimental action’ means:
- actions causing injury, loss or damage;
- intimidation or harassment; or
- discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment,
where that action is taken or threatened against another person because of, or in the belief that:
- the other person or anyone else has made, or intends to make, a public interest disclosure;
- the other person or anyone else has cooperated, or intends to cooperate, with an investigation of a public interest disclosure; or
- for either of the above reasons, the person incites or permits someone else to take or threaten to take detrimental action against the other person.
Disclosing detrimental action
If a person has disclosed Improper Conduct to an agency (such as IBAC), that person should report any actual or threatened detrimental action to that agency. If a matter is urgent, a report should be made to police.
If a person has disclosed Improper Conduct directly to Mercy Health or the Hotline, that person should report any actual or threatened Detrimental Action to Mercy Health or the Hotline. A report to the Hotline can be made even if the original disclosure was directly to Mercy Health.
Protecting individuals from detrimental action
Mercy Health will take all reasonable steps to protect persons from detrimental action being taken against them in reprisal for disclosing Improper Conduct, or for participating in an investigation of Improper Conduct that relates to Mercy Health.
All Mercy Health employees and officers are expected to know that it is an offence for a person to take, incite, or to threaten detrimental action against any person because of, or because of a substantial belief that:
- the other person or anyone else has made, or intends to make, a disclosure of Improper Conduct; or
- that the other person or anyone else has cooperated, or intends to cooperate, with an investigation of Improper Conduct.
The penalties for taking or threatening to take detrimental action include fines and/or imprisonment. Civil action may also be taken in which case compensation may also be ordered.
Mercy Health takes its obligations to protect individuals from detrimental action seriously and may refer any report of detrimental action to police or an appropriate agency.
If Mercy Health becomes aware of any detrimental action taken or threatened against a person engaged by Mercy Health, or such a person raises a concern about possible detrimental action being taken against them, the Mercy Health Group CEO (or their delegate) will determine, in consultation with the affected individual (and where appropriate, IBAC or another relevant external agency) the steps Mercy Health can take to avoid, reduce or eliminate the risk of detrimental action being taken against the person.
Welfare support will be offered to the affected individual as required. Employees requiring welfare support will (if appropriate) be referred to the Mercy Health Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The Mercy Health Group CEO or their delegate (if appropriate and in consultation with IBAC or another relevant external agency) may provide or arrange other appropriate welfare support to the affected person.
Mercy Health is committed to protecting the confidentiality of individuals who disclose Improper Conduct in accordance with applicable law.
Individuals who have disclosed Improper Conduct and who are concerned about their privacy should raise the matter with a relevant agency or via the Hotline.
Disciplinary action where a person has disclosed Improper Conduct
Nothing in this procedure prevents Mercy Health from managing a person’s unsatisfactory work performance in line with Mercy Health’s performance management framework.
If disciplinary action is being contemplated in relation to an employee who is known by Mercy Health to have disclosed Improper Conduct (or who is cooperating with an investigation), the Mercy Health Group CEO (or their delegate) will make the final decision as to whether disciplinary or other performance management action will be taken.
In all cases where disciplinary or other action is being contemplated in relation to an employee who is known by Mercy Health to have disclosed Improper Conduct, the Mercy Health Group CEO (or their delegate) must be satisfied that the following can be demonstrated:
- the fact that the employee has disclosed Improper Conduct (or is cooperating with an investigation) is not a substantial reason for the taking of the action against the employee;
- there are good and sufficient grounds that would fully justify action against any other person in the same circumstances; and
- there are good and sufficient grounds that justify exercising any discretion to institute disciplinary or other action.
The Mercy Health Group CEO (or their delegate) will document the process including recording the reasons why the disciplinary or other action is being taken, and the reasons why the action is not in retribution for the making of the disclosure (or for cooperating with an investigation). The Mercy Health Group CEO (or their delegate) will clearly advise the individual of the proposed action to be taken, and of any mitigating factors that have been taken into account.
Mercy Health Whistleblower Hotline
Last reviewed February 3, 2020.