Long awaited changes to New Zealand’s whistleblowing protection laws will take effect on 1 July 2022 after the Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act (New Act) received royal assent on 13 May 2022.
This New Act will repeal and replace the current Protected Disclosures Act 2000 (Old Act).
The purpose of the whistleblowing protection law is to protect employees who disclose serious wrongdoing in the workplace and to facilitate the disclosure and investigation of such matters.
These changes mean that it is important that organisations have in place systems and practices that make it easy for employees to report serious wrongdoing in a safe and secure way and that all disclosures are promptly investigated and addressed.
Key changes for employers
Some of the key changes between the Old Act and the New Act that employers need to be aware of include:
1. Expanded definition of serious wrongdoing
The types of matters that can be disclosed as serious wrongdoing now include:
- conduct that creates a serious risk to the health and safety of an individual (which could include instances of bullying and sexual harassment); and
- misuse of public funds and delivery of public services by the private sector (to ensure that unlawful or corrupt use of public funds can be disclosed as a whistleblowing matter whether it occurs in a public or private organisation).
2. Enabling disclosers to report serious wrongdoing directly to a relevant authority at any time.
Under the Old Act, a whistleblower can only report to an authority if the matter is urgent or not actioned by the organisation or the whistleblower believes that the head of the organisation is involved in the serious wrongdoing.
3. Adverse conduct
Clear obligations on employers not to retaliate against or cause detriment to whistleblowers for making disclosures.
Receivers must also take care to keep the identity of disclosers confidential.
Steps receivers of disclosures should take
Within 20 business days of receiving a disclosure, the receiver is required to:
- acknowledge the disclosure
- consider whether it requires investigation
- deal with the disclosure by investigating it or recommending another appropriate course of action.
If a receiver decides that no action is required in relation to the disclosure, they must advise the discloser and provide reasons for their decision.
Next steps for businesses operating in New Zealand
If you have operations in New Zealand, we recommend you review and revise your whistleblowing policies and procedures to ensure that they are fit for purpose.
Please get in touch if you need advice or training from Your Call’s General Counsel, Kirsty Harvison, on how to comply with the New Act.