Public Interest Disclosure Act Guidance for Ministry Supervisors
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.
As a supervisor, you have specific responsibilities under the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA), including receiving a disclosure and giving advice to an employee who may be considering whether to make a disclosure or a complaint about a reprisal.
Giving Advice About Public Interest Disclosures
Employees may request and receive advice from you as their supervisor about making a disclosure. They may also seek advice from you about making a complaint about a reprisal to the BC Ombudsperson. You are authorized to provide this advice to employees under PIDA (section 11). There are a few key things to remember when it comes to providing advice specific to PIDA.
- It is a good idea to document the employee’s concern as well as the advice you give in order to keep a record in case the employee experiences reprisal
- You are responsible for keeping in confidence that an employee has sought advice under PIDA. Keep your notes confidential and secure
- If there is imminent risk to people or the environment, advise the employee to go straight to the Agency designated officer
- Advise employees about the process and provide information about PIDA. You may send them to the MyHR page Knowing about Public Interest Disclosure
- Remind the employee that they can always come back to you. Assure them that you will keep the matter confidential and that they will be protected from reprisal if they choose to disclose or seek advice
- If you have concerns about the subject matter of a disclosure, or are not sure if an employee has made a disclosure, you should seek direction from your ministry ethics advisor or the Agency designated officer
Important Points to Remember
- The decision whether to make a disclosure or a complaint about a reprisal under PIDA belongs to the employee—it is important that you provide the information they need to make the decision, but do not pressure the employee in any way
- There are other reporting requirements for government employees. For example, public servants have duties to report under legislation like the Worker’s Compensation Act and the Financial Administration Act (FAA) (which requires unauthorized spending to be reported). Under the Child and Family Community Services Act (CFCSA), a person who has reason to believe that a child needs protection must promptly report that as outlined in the Act. Employees are also required to report breaches of the Standards of Conduct
- In cases where being aware of something creates a reporting requirement under an act like the Worker’s Compensation Act, the FAA, or the CFCSA, you may be required to report information that you become aware of. If this happens, you must still protect the confidentiality of the person who told you
- PIDA is not a mandatory reporting requirement and it is up to the employee to determine if they wish to make a PIDA disclosure in addition to reporting in accordance with other mandatory reporting requirements such as under the Worker’s Compensation Act, the FAA, the CFCSA, or the Standards of Conduct
- When an employee discloses wrongdoing to the ombudsperson under PIDA, and the ombudsperson decides to investigate the matter, the employee is not required to also make a disclosure under the Standards of Conduct. However, when an employee discloses wrongdoing to the ombudsperson under PIDA, and the ombudsperson advises them they will not be investigating, the employee is still obligated to report the matter to the employer as required under the Standards of Conduct
- Do not tell the employee whether you think their concern is a serious wrongdoing under PIDA. This is determined by the Agency designated officer or B.C. ombudsperson. Your job as supervisor is to listen to the employee’s concern and provide them with information about the process
- It is important to protect employees against any reprisal that might come from their asking advice about PIDA. One of the most effective ways to do this is by maintaining confidentiality, including protecting their identity to the fullest extent possible
- If an employee experiences reprisal for seeking advice, making a report or cooperating with an investigation, they can make a complaint to the Ombudsperson, who has the authority to investigate reprisals
Accepting a Disclosure
Once an employee has decided to make a disclosure internally under PIDA, they must submit it in writing, even if it is done anonymously. The best way is via the online disclosure form. If an employee wants to submit a written disclosure directly to you instead of using the form, your responsibility is to accept it and transfer it to the Agency designated officer as soon as possible.
If you receive a written disclosure in person, contact the Agency designated officer to determine how they would like to receive it in their office. Do not review the disclosure for accuracy or to ensure it is complete, and do not investigate the concerns identified in the disclosure; these are the responsibilities of the Agency designated officer. Let the employee know that you will submit it and that the Agency designated officer will be in touch with them regarding next steps.
If the employee has questions about what happens after they submit a disclosure, you may direct them to the resources on MyHR which outline the process, or you can provide them with the email address for the Agency designated officer so they can follow up directly. Alternatively, if the employee submitted their disclosure to the B.C. ombudsperson, they should follow up with that office directly for further information.
Under PIDA it is an offence to share the identity of a discloser except in limited and specific circumstances. You must not tell anyone except the Agency designated officer the identity of the discloser. Review Protecting Employees Against Reprisals for more information about confidentiality and other steps you can take to protect employees.