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The Protected Disclosure Bill, which seeks to encourage and facilitate specified disclosures of improper conduct in the public interest and to protect employees who make the specified disclosures, was tabled in the Senate, today (June 11).
The Bill was tabled by Minister of Justice and Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne.
According to the Memorandum of objects and reasons, the Bill contemplates as a disclosure, any revelation by an employee of information regarding any conduct of the employer or of a fellow employee, which that employee reasonably believes constitutes ‘improper conduct.’
‘Improper conduct’ is defined as: a criminal offence; conduct likely to result in a miscarriage of justice; conduct that is likely to threaten health or safety of any person; conduct that is likely to threaten the environment; gross mismanagement; any act of reprisal on the part of the employer or another employee; and unfair discrimination on the basis of gender, colour, religion or political opinion.
The Bill also sets out internal and external reporting avenues for employees to make protected disclosures. Prescribed persons to whom disclosures may be made include: the Auditor General, Political Ombudsman, Public Defender, Director of Public Prosecutions, Commissioner of Police and the Children’s Advocate.
In order that the proposed legislation may achieve its purpose, the Bill prescribes certain duties to be carried out by the employer, including a duty to receive and carry out an investigation into any disclosures made, and to maintain secrecy and confidentiality of any information received, including the identity of any witnesses and any person alleged to be at fault.
As further protection to employees, the Bill provides for immunity from civil or criminal proceedings for persons making protected disclosures in accordance with the Act.
This ‘whistleblower legislation’ is part of an overall initiative by the Government to eradicate corruption, promote accountability and transparency and reduce opportunities for improper conduct in the workplace.