Knowing about Public Interest Disclosure
The below information applies to employees in government ministries as outlined in HR Policy 24.
Employees from other public sector organizations, including agencies, boards and commissions should direct PIDA inquiries to their specific organization.
Reporting Wrongdoing as a BC Public Service Employee
Speaking up when things aren’t right supports our public service values and the safety and well-being of citizens and colleagues.
Employees of BC Public Service ministries can choose to report wrongdoing under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), which is intended to apply to serious wrongdoing that is potentially unlawful, dangerous to the public or injurious to the public interest.
Under the Standards of Conduct for the BC Public Service, employees have an obligation to report incidents of bullying, breaches of the Standards of Conduct and wrongdoing. They must also report:
- Any situation relevant to the BC Public Service that they believe contravenes the law, misuses public funds or assets, or represents a danger to public health and safety or a significant danger to the environment
For more detailed information, read the Standards of Conduct in full.
Where an employee makes a disclosure of wrongdoing under PIDA this may satisfy their obligation to report an allegation of wrongdoing under the Standards of Conduct.
BC Public Service PIDA policies and procedures apply to all government ministries as outlined in Appendix 1 of HR Policy 24 – Public Interest Disclosure (PDF, 207KB). Other public sector organizations, including agencies, boards and commissions, should review their organization’s own PIDA procedures.
What is PIDA?
PIDA is B.C. legislation that provides a framework for employees to report specific kinds of serious wrongdoing with legislated protection from reprisal. PIDA is effective for employees of government ministries as of December 1, 2019.
Public interest disclosures must be about a matter of public interest and serious wrongdoing in or relating to a ministry, office or government body.
If you are thinking about making a disclosure about these kinds of wrongdoing, there are specific places to go for advice and processes that need to be followed. If employees choose to make a PIDA disclosure, they must do so in good faith.
HR Policy 24 – Public Interest Disclosure (PDF, 372KB) and Public Interest Disclosure Procedure (PDF, 421KB) are key documents for employees in government ministries to understand how PIDA applies to them.
Who Can Make a Public Interest Disclosure Under PIDA?
You can make a public interest disclosure in the following situations:
- You are a ministry employee
- You were a ministry employee in the past at the time you experienced or learned of the wrongdoing
What Qualifies as Wrongdoing Under PIDA?
The Public Interest Disclosure Act deals with specific types of wrongdoing. Here are the kinds of wrongdoing that would qualify to be investigated under the Act:
- A serious act or omission that, if proven, would constitute an offence under an enactment of B.C., or Canada
- An act or omission that creates substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons, or to the environment, other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of an employee’s duties or functions
- A serious misuse of public funds of public assets
- Gross or systemic mismanagement
- Knowingly directing or counselling a person to commit wrongdoing as described above
In essence, allegations that meet the threshold of serious wrongdoing are significant issues that the public should know about. If the wrongdoing you wish to report does not fit on the list or is not in the public’s interest to know about, you still need to speak up through another process.
Examples that may not qualify as wrongdoing under PIDA include:
- An individual workplace complaint
- An employee using their cab card once for personal reasons
- A disclosure about the conduct of a Member of the Legislative Assembly
- A disclosure related solely to a public policy issue
Refer to the Standards of Conduct “Allegations of Wrongdoing” and “Responsibilities” sections for guidance on speaking up and talk with your supervisor.
How to Make a Disclosure Under PIDA
If you are a ministry employee and wish to report wrongdoing, and want to do that under PIDA, you can make your disclosure:
Internally, to one of the following people:
- Your supervisor
- Your ministry ethics advisor
- The Public Service Agency (Agency) designated officer
- Directly to the Office of the Ombudsperson
It’s important to make the disclosure in writing. The easiest way to do this internally is by filling out the online disclosure form. This form is submitted directly via email. The Public Interest Disclosure Procedure (PDF, 421KB) states what kind of information should be included wherever possible.
If you are a political staff member, use the political staff version of the form (PDF, 329KB).
How to Report Allegations of Workplace Misconduct That Don't Qualify as Wrongdoing Under PIDA?
If the wrongdoing you wish to report doesn’t fit on the list, you still have an obligation to speak up through another process. Please refer to the MyHR page Investigations of Allegations of Workplace Misconduct for more information about how to report.
You can also find more information in the Standards of Conduct “Allegations of Wrongdoing” and “Responsibilities” sections for guidance on speaking up. You can also talk with your supervisor.
PIDA is not intended to provide an avenue for employees to address their individual employment disputes. Employees who have concerns about such matters have existing policies and procedures to deal with those. For those matters, refer to Human Resource Policies and the Employment Conditions and Agreements.
Learn More About How You’re Protected
Under PIDA, employees who make a disclosure, or who ask for advice about making a disclosure, are protected by legislation from reprisal, or punitive measures, in response to making a disclosure.
PIDA provides employees with that legislated protection only if they make the disclosure in the appropriate way or ask for advice from an appropriate person. For example, if they send information to a journalist instead of making a disclosure to a proper authority, they will not be protected by PIDA.
What Happens When Wrongdoing is Reported
This process map (PDF, 348KB) shows what happens when a disclosure is made internally to a supervisor, ministry ethics advisor, or the Agency designated officer. HR Policy 24 – Public Interest Disclosure (PDF, 377KB) provides more detailed information on what happens after a disclosure has been made.
Read What to Expect if There's an Internal Public Interest Disclosure Investigation to understand what happens in the case of an investigation.
Getting Advice About PIDA
If you have information about a wrongdoing, read Thinking of Making a Public Interest Disclosure? to learn more about your options.
When thinking about reporting a serious wrongdoing using the process outlined in HR Policy 24 – Public Interest Disclosure (PDF, 372KB) and the Public Interest Disclosure Procedure (PDF, 276KB), you might choose to ask for advice. If you do, you are protected from reprisal, even if you choose not to disclose after receiving the advice. This is true as long as you talk to one of the authorized people about your options. Read Getting Advice About PIDA to understand who to talk to and how this protects you against reprisal.
If you are a political staff member, visit Ethics and Standards of Conduct for Political Staff to learn who to talk to.
If You are a Supervisor
As a supervisor, you play an important part in creating a culture that supports employees in speaking up about wrongdoing. Learn about Talking to Your Employees about Ethics and Standards of Conduct.
If employees report wrongdoing to you or ask for advice about reporting wrongdoing, it is important to take steps to protect them against reprisal. Read Protecting Employees Against Reprisals to understand the steps to take.
As of December 1, 2019, you have new responsibilities under PIDA.
- The Standards of Conduct explain that one of the responsibilities of line managers is to “provide advice to and receive disclosures from employees under the Public Interest Disclosure Act"
- It’s important to understand these responsibilities, particularly what you may do, must do, and must not do
- Read Public Interest Disclosure Act Guidance for Ministry Supervisors to learn more
Annual PIDA Reporting
The BC Public Service publishes information and data related to PIDA annually. The annual reports include the number of disclosures received, the number of investigations initiated, details on the investigations if wrongdoing is confirmed, and any information prescribed by regulation. Under the legislation, there will be an evaluation of PIDA presented to the Legislature five years after implementation.
Public reports will not contain any information that could lead to the identification of individuals who have made a disclosure or participated in a PIDA investigation. No personal information will be disclosed as part of any public reports issued about PIDA.