The Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act 2022 (Act) comes into force on 1 July 2022 (replacing the Protected Disclosures Act 2000). The Act continues the purpose of the previous act which is to facilitate the disclosure and investigation of serious wrongdoing in the workplace (often called whistleblowing), and to provide protection for employees and other workers who report concerns in accordance with the Act. Employers must not retaliate against a whistleblower.
The key changes in the new Act include:
- widening the definition of serious wrongdoing to cover private sector use of public funds and authority, and behaviour that is a serious risk to the health and safety of any individual (which include bulling and harassment);
- employees can report serious wrongdoing directly to an appropriate authority instead of going to their employer first and the Act sets out the various authorities people can go to;
- strengthening of protections for whistleblowers by setting out the steps the person who receives the disclosure must follow;
- defining retaliation to include dismissing an employee, not offering the employee the same terms of employment, conditions of work or opportunities as other similar employees in the organisation, causing detriment to the employee (including the detrimental effect on the employee’s employment, job performance or job satisfaction); and/or making the retiring the employee retire or resign.
Public sector organisations must have whistleblowing procedures in place. Private organisations are not required to have procedures in place, but it is good practice to do so. In addition, some private organisations may be authorities people can report serious wrongdoing to, for example, a membership organisation, and so need to have procedures in place.
It is a good time to check your existing whistleblower policy and make sure it complies with the new Act, or if you don’t have one, consider whether you need to create one. Given the widened definition of serious wrongdoing, we also recommend looking at your bullying and harassment policy to ensure that it is fit for purpose and aligns with the new Act.
Please reach out to your Humankind partner if you need more information or would like help with reviewing/creating a whistleblowing policy.