An Act to strengthen the protection available to whistleblowers in New Zealand will soon come into effect, leaving businesses and organisations little time to get their house in order.
The Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act 2022 comes into effect on 1 July 2022.
Laura Scampion, Head of Employment and Country Managing Partner at DLA Piper in New Zealand says employers who do not yet have whistleblowing policies or procedures should look to implement them as soon as possible.
“Now is the time for those organisations with whistleblowing policies to get them reviewed in order to align them with the new rules and guidance. For those that don’t have a whistleblowing policy it is timely to have a think about how an employee in your organisation can realistically raise a serious complaint” she says.
The amendments to the Act are aimed at strengthening the protection available to whistleblowers in New Zealand. Key changes include: new guidance for a receiver of information, direct disclosure to an appropriate authority at any time, an extension to the definition of ‘serious wrongdoing’, internal procedures for public sector organisations and enhanced protection for disclosers (including if they are mistaken).
“The widening of serious wrongdoing could lead to some complexities. The new definition arguably covers bullying and harassment which are issues usually dealt with through an employer investigation, often as part of a personal grievance process. Such investigations are generally governed by principles of natural justice which don’t fit neatly with some of the process requirements/protections provided for in the Act.” says Laura.
The FMA and RBNZ conduct and culture reviews of 2018/19 identified the pressing need in New Zealand for effective whistleblower policies that are accessible, confidential and comprehensive.
The Act is a year behind schedule, it was first introduced in June 2020 with the intent to be in place by July 2021. The Employment team of global law firm, DLA Piper has prepared an article covering the upcoming legislative changes.
“Employers who do have existing policies in place need to be aware of the changes and update any internal whistleblowing policies and procedures, as well as any related policies that might interact with the serious wrongdoing definition.” Laura says
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