Protected Disclosures Bill: employer to be involved

New Protected Disclosures Bill ups protection….

sent to clients 21 January……The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs will shortly be debating the recently tabled Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill which proposes a duty or responsibwhisleblower policyility on employers to explain and inform employees on the procedures for dealing with a whistle-blower’s disclosure and consequent issues surrounding.

The new Bill also makes it a clear requirement that employees should be informed by the employer that they are “entitled to exercise certain remedies if they are subjected to an occupational detriment as a result of having made protected disclosures”. Clearly, intimidation of the whistle blower is still the object of concern and still an issue.

The term “occupational detriment” is now to encompass any potential “detrimental behaviour suffered by those who previously fell outside of the scope of the Act”. It is also proposed that the definition of “disclosure” be amended.

Definition to include “workers”

An important feature of the new Bill is that the definition of a whistle-blower is also extended to in include “workers” rather than just employees. This therefore includes a person who has “worked” on the premises, i.e. to ensure that independent contractors, consultants, agents and persons working or who have worked for the State are included.

The Bill also seeks to re-define the expression “occupational detriment” to include an employee or worker being subjected to any civil claim for the alleged breach of a duty of confidentiality or a confidentiality agreement arising out of the disclosure of a criminal offence.

A clause states that if “occupational detriment derived from disclosure is proved in a court of law, employers will have to pay compensation or damages to the employee or worker.” Whistle blowers will be excused from criminal justice, it seems.

Law reform overview 

The Mlaw booksinister states in the objectives of the new The Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill, now to be debated in Parliament, that the changes emanate from the South African Law Reform Commission’s report on protected disclosures. The Bill will “empower employees to approach the court for relief in the face of detrimental behaviour shown towards them by employers” and “employees and workers will also be immune from civil and criminal liability flowing from a disclosure that reveals criminal activity.”

False whistle-blowing

However, it is to be noted that in reverse, as it were, should an employee knowingly or believing the information not to be true, disclose false information they will be guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years or both.

The draft of the current Bill was published by the Minister for public comment in July last year, the purpose of the Act itself being to set down the procedure for disclosing unlawful behaviour in the workplace by both private and public sector employees and how such disclosure is to be protected.
Previous articles on category subject
Protected Disclosures Act: More whistleblower cover – ParlyReportSA

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