New Zealand’s Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act 2022 is now law. It increases protections for whistleblowers and extends the grounds under which protected disclosures can be made.
The key changes in the Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act 2022 are:
- extending the definition of serious wrongdoing to cover private-sector use of public funds and authority and to cover behaviour that is a serious risk to the health and safety of any individual
- allowing people to report serious wrongdoing directly to an appropriate authority at any time, while clarifying the ability of the appropriate authority to decline or refer the disclosure
- strengthening protections for disclosers by specifying what a receiver of a disclosure should do
- clarifying internal procedure requirements for public sector organisations and requiring them to state how they will provide support to disclosers
- clarifying the potential forms of adverse conduct disclosers may face.
The new Act covers wrongdoing in, or by, any organisation, including small businesses, government agencies, and non-government associations and is relevant to anyone who has worked or volunteered for them.
The Act provides clearer protection for people to speak up about wrongdoing, ensuring confidentiality around who has made the disclosure, immunity from disciplinary action for making the disclosure, and protection from retaliation through the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1993.
The new Act is more “people-focused” and will make the rules “easier to access, understand, and use,” says Minister for the Public Service, Chris Hipkins.
“It’s vital that employees and workers can freely speak up when they have concerns about ethics, risks, financial impropriety and safety in the workplace – without the fear of recrimination,” says Hipkins.
One key change to the Act are provisions for whistleblowers to make protected disclosures to any “appropriate authority” – instead of needing to disclose their concerns to their employer first.
The Act also strengthens protections for disclosers by specifying what those who receive a complaint should do.
The changes follow 2019 research commissioned by the Ombudsman which found that only 40% of New Zealanders felt their jobs would be safe if they reported wrongdoing.
Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has welcomed the passage of the new Act, saying that “the law was definitely in need of an update”.
“It was apparent that the original law wasn’t working as well as it should for either employees or organisations.
“Insiders are usually the first to know about serious wrongdoing in the workplace. Every worker in New Zealand needs to know if they make a disclosure it will be taken seriously and action will be taken.”
Organisations, both public and private sector, have responsibilities under the Act as receivers of protected disclosures. The passing of the Act highlights the importance for ethically-informed leadership, company culture, and the value of independent, external speak-up agencies such as Report it Now.
The new Protection of Whistleblowers Act 2022 replaces the Protected Disclosures Act 2000.
Read the Protection of Whistleblowers Act here.
If you have questions about the new whistleblower protection legislation and how it will affect your organisation, contact Report it Now for advice.