Insights about Whistleblowing
The Office of the Ombudsman recently published a media release titled “Awareness of whistle-blowing legislation alarmingly low”, detailing the results of research it had undertaken.
According to the Ombudsman, public awareness of the Protected Disclosures Act (PDA) is very low. Key findings include:
- 9% of respondents said they were aware of the PDA
- 21% of all respondents said they have witnessed serious wrongdoing at their workplace or previous workplaces
- 40% of all respondents currently in work felt their jobs would be safe if they reported the wrongdoing, 34% said their job wouldn’t be safe and 27% were unsure. Lower paid workers were less convinced about their job security if they reported wrongdoing (31%)
- Respondents who knew about the PDA were more likely to feel their job would be safe if they reported wrongdoing (62%). Respondents who were aware of the PDA were substantially more likely to feel their confidentiality would be guaranteed if they reported wrongdoing (73%) compared to those unaware (33%).
According to the Ombudsman, “There is a clear difference here between those who know about the Act and those who don’t, and that’s concerning”. “Everyone reporting serious wrongdoing should have total faith that they are protected under the Act. The fact that so many people seem unaware suggests this important law is not working as well as it should”.
Late last year, the State Services Commission issued a discussion document on a review of the PDA and received public submissions on its proposals.
Assisting the Whistleblower
The Office of the Ombudsman recently issued a leaflet titled ‘Checklist: Am I ready to make a protected disclosure?’
The checklist is aimed at assisting a potential whistleblower with regards to that person making a protected disclosure under the Protected Disclosures Act (the Act).
- It defines what is an employee
- It defines the types of behaviour that can amount to serious wrongdoing
- It confirms the right for that person to request the serious wrongdoing be investigated
- It confirms the right for that person to request that I want to be protected by the Act
The Ombudsman’s checklist then goes on to deal with advice for the whistleblower as to:
- Who do I make my protected disclosure to;
- Making the protected disclosure; and
- I’ve made my protected disclosure and now I’m worried.
More information on the topic can be viewed on the website of the Office of the Ombudsman under the heading Making a protected disclosure guide.
Adequately protecting whistleblowers is an important part of maintaining confidence within the workplace to protect against the harm associated with serious wrongdoing.
The Protected Disclosures Act sets out what organisations are captured by the legislation. Organisation is defined in S3 as meaning a body of persons whether corporate or unincorporated, and whether in the public sector or in the private sector: and includes a body of persons comprising 1 employer and 1 or more employees. S11 of the Act makes it mandatory for public sector organisations to establish internal procedures relating to receiving and dealing with information about serious wrongdoing in or by that organisation.
It follows that all private sector organisations should follow suit and recognise the ever-growing importance of reporting serious wrongdoing in the workplace. They should also give serious consideration to putting in place a sound and robust Whistleblowing policy and platform in accordance with S11 of the Act.
In summary, upcoming changes to the Act and an increase in the reporting of Whistleblowing incidences in New Zealand will undoubtably raise the profile and interest in Whistleblower platforms.
If you have any questions in relation to a Whistleblower Platform for protected disclosures in your organisation, or are simply considering how the reporting of serious wrongdoings may affect you, please contact us.