What is a protected disclosure?

A protected disclosure is a report about public bodies and/or public officers engaging in 'improper conduct' during their work, or that 'detrimental action' has been taken in reprisal for reporting such conduct.

What is required for a disclosure to be protected?

The requirements vary across the different private and public sector Acts. Legislation in each state is slightly nuanced. Broadly speaking, to gain protections, the content of the complaint needs to demonstrate legislation (e.g. corrupt conduct) has been breached, or with the recent law reform in the private sector (Corporation Act) some broader definitions have been defined to capture other types of poor conduct (e.g. improper state of affairs).

The importance of identifying protected disclosures early

A client recently approached PKF Integrity advising they had commenced an investigation into allegations against a senior executive that involved sexual harassment, bullying, and corruption. Upon hearing the allegations, PKF identified the matter as a protected disclosure and immediately supported the business to implement relevant and appropriate protections for all involved, albeit sometime after the assessment of the complaint had commenced.

The investigation was completed with several allegations being substantiated. However, critically it also highlighted the crucial need to identify protected disclosures early. In this instance, the delay in affording relevant protections had a profound psychological impact on the complainant. The result being the business experienced a costly remediation strategy it may have been able to avoid had the matter been classed as a protected disclosure from receipt of the initial complaint.

External, third-party expertise and appropriate reporting mechanisms can support your business in mitigating risks and ensure sensitive matters are handled with impartiality and independence as is expected in the modern workplace.

What is a Public Interest Disclosure?

Similar to a protected disclosure, a Public Interest Disclosure (PID) uses slightly different terminology and is more prevalent in the public sector. A person who makes a PID receives unique protections for disclosing information in the public interest to a governed authority such as the Regulator. As highlighted above, each state's legislation may differ slightly, but they are there to protect people from reprisals and encourage them to call out improper or unlawful conduct.

At PKF Integrity, we offer comprehensive solutions designed to address all your business integrity challenges and risks. These include establishing and managing a whistleblower program, policy and procedure development, people source management and training, and completing corporate investigations by a national team of highly qualified investigators.

If you would like to learn more, please visit our website.

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