The importance of employees being comfortable to and having the mechanism to report instances of serious wrongdoing in the workplace (serious illegal or unethical conduct) has been highlighted by numerous high-profile cases in New Zealand, Australia and internationally in recent years.
In New Zealand, the Protected Disclosures Act 2000 (the Act) while currently under review to ensure it is fit for purpose and in line with international practice, does place obligations on directors with respect protected disclosures; often referred to as whistleblowing.
Peter Boshier, the Chief Ombudsman for New Zealand has recently stated that he is concerned that many directors and senior managers in the private sector are putting themselves at risk because they haven’t put policies and procedures in place to protect whistleblowers. He encourages directors to consider four key points in this regard:
- Have a protected disclosure policy, make it accessible and talk about it frequently. Make sure your staff know how to speak up, and what will happen if they do.
- Develop a strategy for supporting staff who blow the whistle.
- Make sure whistleblower confidentiality is maintained in accordance with the Act.
- Finally, recognise the value to your organisation of a culture that encourages speaking up.