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Whistle-blower protections (“Protected disclosures”)


If you become aware of serious wrongdoing by your employer or within your employer’s organisation, you’re protected from any disciplinary or other retaliatory action if you tell someone about the wrongdoing (often called “whistle-blowing”). There are rules, however, about who you can tell.

The protections for whistle-blowers also cover volunteers and members of boards, not just employees.

When are whistle-blowers protected?

Protected Disclosures Act 2000, ss 6–14

You’ll be protected under the Protected Disclosures Act if:

  • the information you disclosed is about serious wrongdoing in or by your employer organisation (see below, “What is ‘serious wrongdoing’?”), and
  • you believe on reasonable grounds that the information is true, or likely to be true, and
  • the reason you disclosed the information was so the wrongdoing could be investigated, and
  • you want to have the benefit of the protections in the Act.

What is “serious wrongdoing”?

Protected Disclosures Act 2000, s 3

Serious wrongdoing includes:

  • a criminal offence
  • the unlawful, corrupt or irregular use of public funds or resources
  • conduct that poses a serious risk to public health or safety, to the environment, or to the maintenance of the law
  • a grossly improper act or omission by a public official.

Who can I disclose the information to?

Protected Disclosures Act 2000, ss 7–10

Usually you must disclose the information in the way that’s required by your employer’s internal procedures.

In some cases, however, you can disclose the information to an appropriate authority outside your employer’s organisation, such as the police, the Serious Fraud Office, a government Minister, or the Ombudsman. You can do this if you believe, on reasonable grounds:

  • that the head of the organisation is, or may be, involved in the serious wrongdoing
  • that it’s urgent that you disclose the information immediately to an appropriate authority or that for some other reason it’s an exceptional case
  • that you’ve disclosed the information under your employer’s internal procedures and 20 working days have now passed without any action being taken.

    Note: All public-sector organisations must have a procedure for disclosing information.

How am I protected if I disclose the information?

Protected Disclosures Act 2000, ss 17–19

If you’ve disclosed information under the Protected Disclosures Act and your employer takes retaliatory action against you, such as dismissing you, you can bring a personal grievance against them for unjustified dismissal or unjustified action (see the chapter “Resolving employment problems”).

You’re also protected against any criminal charges, civil court action or disciplinary proceedings being taken against you.

Your identity must also be kept confidential by the people you disclose the information to, except in certain cases.

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Employment conditions and protections

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and, depending on your situation, may also be able to provide ongoing support.

“Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options during and after pregnancy” (booklet)

This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.

Order hard copies from:

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley

Phone (04) 499 2928

Email: publications@wclc.org.nz or visit www.communitylaw.org.nz to buy a copy or access free online

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment


Free phone 0800 20 90 20, for general enquiries about employment relations, pay and holidays.

The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of publications on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Labour inspectors

Labour inspectors monitor and enforce minimum employment conditions. To refer a problem to a labour inspector, you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment on:

Free phone 0800 20 90 20

Worksafe New Zealand, Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa


Free phone: 0800 030 040

Worksafe New Zealand’s website has a range of information and publications on workplace health and safety issues.

Parental leave payments


The Inland Revenue website has information on parental leave payments.

Whistle-blowing (“Protected disclosures” by employees)


Free phone: 0800 802 602
Email: info@ombudsman.parliament.nz

The Office of the Ombudsman provides information and guidance to employees about making a protected disclosure.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi


Phone: (04) 385 1334
Email: info@nzctu.org.nz

The NZCTU is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

Also available as a book

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