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New Zealand: Education and Workforce Committee publishes final report on Protection of Whistleblowers Bill

The New Zealand Education and Workforce Committee ('the Committee') published, on 29 March 2022, its final report on the Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Bill, following the latest version of the Bill being published on 8 March 2022. In particular, the Committee highlighted that, following its examination of the Bill, it recommends that the Bill be passed with the amendments shown in its report. In this regard, the report confirms that the Bill would continue the purpose of the Protected Disclosures Act 2000 ('the Act'), which is to facilitate the disclosure and investigation of serious wrongdoing in the workplace, and to provide protection for employees and other workers who report concerns. However, the report clarifies that the Bill would make changes to address problems that have been identified with the Act.

Furthermore, the report states that the Bill would:

  • clarify the definition of serious wrongdoing and extend its application to cover private sector use of public funds and authority;
  • enable 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;
  • strengthen protections for disclosers by specifying what a receiver of a disclosure should do;
  • clarify internal procedure requirements for public sector organisations and require them to state how they will provide support to disclosers; and
  • clarify the potential forms of adverse conduct disclosers may face.

Moreover, the report highlights the following recommendations, among other things:

  • amending the meaning of 'serious wrongdoing' to simplify the language, thus making it easier to understand, and making it clear that the Bill would cover all organisations, not just those in the public sector;
  • simplifying the clause relating to a discloser’s entitlement to protection when making a disclosure to their organisation, and making it clear that a discloser could approach the head of their organisation at any time;
  • amending the steps a receiver should take, clarifying it so that informing the discloser about the outcome of an investigation is included in informing them about any action taken; and
  • specifically inserting the responsibility of the receiver to protect the confidentiality of a protected disclosure in line with the Privacy Act 2020, ensuring that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of New Zealand would have the ability to investigate any breach of the related clause.

You can access the report here, the Bill here, and track the Bill's progress here.