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Whistle-blower protections

If you think there has been a serious wrongdoing in your present or past workplace and you tell someone about the wrongdoing (“whistleblowing”), you’re protected from negative retaliation like disciplinary action or being passed up for a promotion. There are rules, however, about who you can tell. This section covers when and how you are protected when you tell someone about the wrongdoing (“protected disclosure”).

What is “serious wrongdoing”?

Protected Disclosures Act 2000, s 3

Serious wrongdoing includes:

  • a criminal offence, or
  • the unlawful, corrupt or irregular use of public funds or resources, including where these are used in the private sector, or
  • conduct that poses a serious risk to public health or safety, the environment, the health and safety of any individual or the law being maintained, or
  • a grossly improper act or omission by a public official.

When am I protected if I tell someone about the serious wrongdoing?

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’s organisation, 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.

How will I be protected?

Protected Disclosures Act 2000, ss 17–19

The protections for whistle-blowers cover employees, volunteers, secondees, contractors and members of boards.

Protection from unfair treatment

If you’ve disclosed information under the Protected Disclosures Act, your employer should not take action against you. “Taking action against you” includes things like giving you a warning, denying you benefits or privileges at work, or unfairly passing you up for a promotion.

If your employer does take action against you, your family or associates, you can bring a personal grievance against them for unjustified disadvantage.

If you are a volunteer or contractor, you may be able to bring an action under the Human Rights Act.

Protection from criminal, civil and disciplinary actions

If you make a disclosure, you are protected against any civil court action, criminal charges, or disciplinary action because of making the disclosure. This rule overrides any other agreement or contract, like an employment agreement, that restricts disclosing the information.

These protections only apply to making the disclosure. If you were involved in the wrongdoing, you may still face criminal, civil or disciplinary action for your part in the wrongdoing.


Your identity must be kept confidential by the people you disclose the information to unless it is really necessary for your identity to be shared. You should be consulted with beforehand if this is thought to be necessary so you can give your opinion on the decision.

Who should I tell about the serious wrongdoing?

Protected Disclosures Act 2000, ss 7–10

Your employer should have a policy about whistle-blowing that sets out who you should tell if there is a serious wrongdoing.

You can disclose the information following this policy, or to the head or deputy head of your organisation.

You can also disclose to an appropriate authority outside your employer’s organisation. Who an “appropriate authority” is will depend on the issue. For example, it might be Oranga Tamariki if it is an issue to do with child welfare; Worksafe if it is a health and safety breach; or the Financial Markets Authority if it is an issue with financial reporting.

You can find a list of potential authorities at: ombudsman.parliament.nz/make-protected-disclosure

Note: All public-sector organisations must have an internal procedure for disclosing information. Information about these procedures must be widely available, so both current and previous employees can access the procedures.

Can I tell someone outside of my work?

You can tell an appropriate authority about the serious wrongdoing at any time. This might be a good option if you feel like your employer has insufficient systems to address your disclosure, or if you feel unsafe raising the issue directly with someone at your work. You could also tell an appropriate authority if you disclosed the information and nothing has happened about it.

If you are getting legal advice, you can always disclose your concerns to a lawyer. You can also tell a friend or family member about the situation to get their advice and support. The Act covers this support person, too.

Did this answer your question?

Employment conditions and protections

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Access the free “Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before 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.
Online: communitylaw.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Pregnancy-Manual_PDF-for-Web_2021.pdf
Email for a hard copy: publications@wclc.org.nz
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

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

Website: www.employment.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 20 90 20
Hours and wages: www.employment.govt.nz/hours-and-wages
Leave and holidays: www.employment.govt.nz/leave-and-holidays
Workplace policies: www.employment.govt.nz/workplace-policies

Te Kauae Kaimah/New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Te Kauae Kaimah 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.

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

Labour inspectorate

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

Website: www.mbie.govt.nz/position-descriptions/employment-services/labour-inspector-employment-services and www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/labour-inspectorate
Phone: 0800 20 90 20

Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa/Worksafe New Zealand

Worksafe is New Zealand’s primary workplace health and safety regulator.  The website contains a range of information on workplace health and safety.

Phone: 0800 030 040
Notify Worksafe online: www.worksafe.govt.nz/notify-worksafe

Parental leave payments

For more information on parental leave see Inland Revenue’s website.

Website: www.ird.govt.nz/topics/paid-parental-leave

Office of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman handles complaints about Government agencies. In the employment context, you can make a protected disclosure (known as whistle-blowing).

Website: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz
Email: office@ombudsmen.parliament.nz
Phone: 0800 802 602
Whistle-blowing/protected disclosure information: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/what-ombudsman-can-help/serious-wrongdoing-work-whistleblowing

To make a complaint online: www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/get-help-public

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