Supporting staff involved in PIDs
Supporting people who report wrongdoing is the foundation of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (PID Act). As well as responsibilities under the PID Act, public authorities and their principal officers also have obligations to support staff under:
- work health and safety legislation
- common law duty of care towards all employees.
Support the person making the report
When a staff member genuinely believes there is something seriously wrong with an organisation and is sufficiently concerned to report this, you have a responsibility to:
- take them seriously and treat them with respect
- support them in what is commonly a stressful situation – including keeping them informed of what is being done with their report
- protect them from any repercussions for coming forward – including keeping the report confidential, or if this is not possible, being discreet – see Protections when making a PID
- respond swiftly and fairly to any allegations or instances of threats of reprisal.
Make sure all reports of wrongdoing are dealt with appropriately and staff involved are supported. This includes:
- ensuring the reporter is advised about decisions made on reports and, if further action is recommended, given regular progress updates and information about the outcome
- providing adequate resources to the person appointed to investigate a report or to support a reporter
- taking appropriate remedial action in response to any findings that substantiate the allegations of wrongdoing
- implementing any organisational reform that is necessary to address systemic issues identified.
Try to find out what is really going on. Generally, the reporter's motives are not be relevant to your investigation. People decide to disclose wrongdoing for many different reasons. You should focus on the the allegations, not the motivations of the reporter. Others may also see problems, but have an interest in keeping the peace.
Guidelines to support and advise reporters of PIDs
- Guideline E1 - Model for internal reporter support
- Guideline D3 - Internal reporters involved in wrongdoing
- Guideline D1 - Internal reporter support strategy
- Guideline D2 - Information advice and feedback to internal reporters
Be fair to any person accused of wrongdoing
The process of finding out the truth of allegations should be impartial. This means you should not take sides and should not have a preconceived outcome in mind.
Any person who has been accused of wrongdoing must be given an opportunity to put forward their response to any allegations made against them.
For guidance on dealing with people who are the subjects of reports of wrongdoing, see Guideline C1 - People the subject of a report.
Support other staff
If a matter cannot be dealt with confidentially, try to prevent gossip, innuendo and paranoia among staff. Explain to any potential witnesses why they are being asked about the situation. The more they know about the process, the less suspicious or fearful they may be.
Remember that reprisal is sometimes taken against a person suspected of making a complaint, and they may not be the person who raised the concerns.
The NSW Ombudsman provides advice and assistance with handling PIDs and understanding the PID Act. Contact our Public Interest Disclosure Unit on 02 9286 1000 or email email@example.com