Protected Disclosures Act (Whistleblower Protections) 2022 Explained

August 16th, 2022 - Barbara Buckett

New Zealand has had whistleblower protections in place for around 20 years, but the new and improved Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act 2022 has come into force on 1 July 2022. 

Employers need to acquaint themselves with the new Act and ensure their policies are up to date and that they are sure of their obligations. Some of the key changes to be aware of are: 

  • Serious wrongdoing’s definition has been expanded and extended to cover private sector use of public funds and now also includes behaviour that is a serious risk to the health and safety of any individual. This includes bullying and sexual harassment. 

  • Reports of ‘serious wrongdoing’ can now be made ‘to an appropriate authority’ at any time, whereas previously this was only permitted in certain circumstances. 

  • Sets out specifically what a receiver of a report of serious wrongdoing must do:       

    • Within 20 working days inform the discloser what is being done with reasons - the receiver of the report must acknowledge to the discloser when the report was received, consider the disclosure and whether it warrants investigation, and check with the discloser whether the disclosure has been made elsewhere and what the outcome was, and deal with the matter (investigate, recommend action, refer to an appropriate authority, or decide no action needed). 

Public sector organisations specifically need to update their internal policies. The new legislation sets out internal procedures that must be in place to state how they will provide support to disclosers. To ensure best practices, though they are not mandatory, private sector organisations would benefit from enacting similar policies. 

Our suggestion:

If you haven’t already, urgently assess your current situation and the applicability of the updated rules for your business, and ensure that your business policies are up to date and meeting the new required standards. 

What is serious wrongdoing?

Serious wrongdoing includes:

  • unlawful, corrupt or irregular use of public money or resources

  • conduct that poses a serious risk to public health, safety, the environment or the maintenance of the law

  • any criminal offence

  • gross negligence or mismanagement by public officials.

Background of the Protected Disclosures Bill

2000The Act was passed A media release by then State Services Minister, Rt Hon Trevor Mallard explains some of the background to the Act.
2003Review by M Scholtens QC into the operation of the ActThe review highlighted a number of issues including inconsistent application of the Act and a perception that confidentiality of disclosers’ identity was not assured
2009The Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill was passedThe purpose of the bill was to “give the Ombudsmen an enhanced guiding, reviewing, and investigating role in relation to disclosures of serious wrongdoing, with the Office of the Ombudsmen facilitating a collaborative cross-agency approach”
2017An investigation occurred into the way whistleblowers were treated at the Ministry of Transport in relation to jailed fraudster Joanne Harrison. A review of the Act by the State Services Commission (the SSC) identified a number of areas where the current regime is unclear As well as publishing the report of the investigation, the State Services Commissioner announced the SSC was developing options for how the Act could be modernised and made more user friendly, and issued standards for government agencies on systems for staff to raise issues. 
February – March 2018A targeted consultation with 38 organisations and individuals gathered perspectives on the Act and the different reform choices The summary report noted that consultation highlighted weaknesses in the current regime
13 August 2018Cabinet confirmed the decision to undertake a review and seek public feedback on five options for change
October 2018A discussion document was released entitled Help Shape Improvements to the Protected Disclosures Act to Maintain New Zealand’s High Standards of IntegrityThe document requested public feedback on options for change to the Act 
April 2019A summary report was published by the State Services CommissionThe report summarises submissions made 
24 June 2020The bill was introduced 

Source: NZ Parliament Website


If you have any questions or are unsure of what responsibilities your organisation or business has do not hesitate to contact BuckettLaw

Note: BuckettLaw takes no responsibility for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of our articles. Any views expressed or comments made in an article are the writers option only. The content in our articles does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal or expert advice you should obtain specific advice about your case or matter from a professional. For legal advice based on your individual situation please contact us to speak with one of our expert lawyers.

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Barbara Buckett

Barbara Buckett is a highly experienced senior employment lawyer with over 35 years of practice in New Zealand. She provides expert advice on all areas of employment law and has a proven track record of delivering excellent results for clients. Barbara has extensive experience in resolving workplace issues and is an experienced litigator. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, working out, and fine wine and dining with friends.

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