An employee recently noticed that his workplace was engaging in serious wrongdoing that was allegedly causing serious risk to the environment.  John knew he wanted to report his employer’s conduct but was worried about the consequences he may face and decided to see us for advice.

John is sadly one of the few New Zealanders who report serious wrongdoing in the workplace. This is partly because most people are unaware of the legal protections in place for you when you decide to “blow the whistle” on your employer. 

When are you protected?

You will be protected under New Zealand law provided you meet the following:

  • Information you disclose is about serious wrongdoing by your employer;
  • You believe on reasonable grounds that the information is, or is likely to be, true;
  • You disclosed the information for the purpose of it being investigated; and
  • You wish for the disclosure to be protected. 

Employees, volunteers, and board members can all be protected. If you meet all of the above, the law prevents your employer from taking disciplinary, or other retaliatory, action against you if you report their alleged misconduct.

Further, if your employer does attempt disciplinary action, then the law allows you to raise a personal grievance against your employer.

What is serious wrongdoing?

“Serious wrongdoing” includes (in brief) any conduct that amounts to a serious risk to public health, safety, or the environment, a criminal offence, or an unlawful use of public funds or resources.

If you are unsure whether your employer’s conduct amounts to “serious wrongdoing”, it is recommended that you seek professional advice before you decide to report it.

Who should I report the serious wrongdoing to?

If your workplace provides internal procedures for receiving and disclosing information about serious wrongdoing, it is important you follow this process first.

If there are no procedures in place, then in some cases you are permitted to disclose the information to organisations such as the Police, Serious Fraud Office and/or the Ombudsman.

 Once you have reported it, your identity will remain confidential unless you provide your consent to disclose it.

If you think your workplace is engaging in serious wrongdoing, we strongly encourage you to consider reporting it. If you wish to know more about your rights and obligations beforehand we’d be happy to assist.


Kirsten Ferguson
Commercial Lawyer
Wellington