Should whistle-blowers get more protection?

The public will get a chance to have their say on proposed changes to the Protected Disclosures Act 2000, Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins announced today.

The purpose of the Act is to encourage people to speak up about serious wrongdoing in the workplace and protect them from losing their jobs or being mistreated.

“We know, however, that the Act is not working as well as it should,” Chris Hipkins said.

“It is seen as weak and confusing and this needs to change. The law needs to be strengthened, it needs to be fair and it needs to be easy to understand.

“Most importantly, citizens who speak up in the public interest need to have confidence the law will protect them from punishment and reprisal.”

Chris Hipkins announced in February that the Government was exploring whether the law and procedures to protect whistle-blowers need to be strengthened.

“Since then, the State Services Commission has undertaken a targeted consultation with a range of organisations from the public and private sector. They have gathered perspectives on key issues, challenges and options for reform and published a summary of this consultation.”

The next step in the review process is public consultation, which will run from today to 7 December, Chris Hipkins said.

The Government has proposed five options for change:

  • Address the areas of confusion in the current Act and ensuring organisations have good processes in place
  • Make it easier for people to report to an external, independent organisation at any time.
  • Establish stronger oversight and create a single port of call for advice on when and how to use the Act
  • Introduce new reporting obligations for public sector organisations on protected disclosures to promote transparency and good practise
  • Introduce new reporting obligations for all organisations across the public, private and the not-for-profit sectors. 

“These are options only, and nothing has been decided,” Chris Hipkins said. 

“I encourage the public to have their say between now and the 7th of December. We want New Zealanders to help shape any amendments to the Act. 

“The feedback we get will be very important to help shape any amendments to the Act. I expect the State Services Commission to report back to me on the outcome of the consultation and next steps in early 2019.”