Whistleblowers to get more safety under proposed law changes

The Government wants your view on proposed changes to a law which protects people who speak up about serious wrongdoing in the workplace. 

The proposed changes to the Protected Disclosures Act aim to protect whistleblowers from losing their jobs or being mistreated, says Minister of State Services Chris Hipkins. 

He says the current law is too confusing and "not working as well as it should".

"It is seen as weak and confusing and this needs to change," said Mr Hipkins. "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."

The Government has proposed five changes:

  • address the areas of confusion in the current Act 
  • make sure organisations have good processes in place
  • make it easier for people to report wrongdoing
  • create a single port of call for advice on when and how to use the Act
  • introduce new reporting obligations for all organisations 

Mr Hipkins first floated the idea of changing the Act in February. 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 conclusion."

It comes as staff from the Ministry of Primary Industries' (MPI) border control team recently contacted Newshub to complain of bullying and mismanagement. 

In August, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) named and shamed employers caught exploiting workers in a public list. It came after a crackdown on employers who breach immigration and employment law. 

Government figures released to Newshub in June showed a significant increase in complaints of employers exploiting workers and breaching laws in the hospitality industry, which prompted calls for greater protections for workers. 

Mr Hipkins says nothing has been decided on yet. The public can have their say between now and December 7. 

"We want New Zealanders to help shape any amendments to the Act," said Mr Hipkins. "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."