WorkCover Queensland (WorkCover) has a commitment to ensuring the highest standards of professional and ethical conduct in our organisation. A Public Interest Disclosure (PID) is a disclosure in the public interest, of information about wrongdoing in the public sector. WorkCover values the disclosure of information about suspected wrongdoing so that it can be properly assessed and, if necessary investigated.
This policy demonstrates how WorkCover will ensure practical and effective procedures are implemented to meet the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (PID Act).
By complying with the PID Act, WorkCover will:
- ensure any public officer who makes a PID is given appropriate support;
- PIDs made to WorkCover are properly assessed and, where appropriate, properly investigated and managed;
- appropriate action is taken in relation to any wrongdoing which is the subject of a PID;
- a management program for PIDs made to WorkCover, is consistent with the standards issued by the Queensland Ombudsman; and
- public officers who make PIDs are offered protection from reprisal by WorkCover.
The PID policy and management program are reviewed annually and updated as required to ensure requirements of the PID Act and the PID standards issued by the Queensland Ombudsman are met. The Queensland Ombudsman is the oversight agency for WorkCover and the public sector in relation to PIDs.
This policy outlines key elements of WorkCover's PID framework, including the procedures for assessing, investigating, managing and reporting PIDs.
This policy is based on the following:
- Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 (PID Act)
- Public Interest Disclosure Standard No. 1/2019: PID Management Program (PID Standard No. 1/2019)
- Public Interest Disclosure Standard No. 2/2019: Assessing , investigating and dealing with PIDs (PID Standard No. 2/2019)
- Public Interest Disclosure Standard No. 3/2019: PID data recording and reporting (PID Standard No. 3/2019.)
- AS8004-2003 Whistleblower protection programs for entities.
- Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Act 2019
- Crime and Corruption Act 2001
- Public Records Act 2002
- Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 (Qld)
- Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 (Qld)
This policy applies to all employees of WorkCover. All staff and managers at WorkCover must participate in PID training when requested in relation to this policy. Delegated officers involved in the PID process attend specialist training as required.
Related internal policies and procedures
- Customer complaints policy
- Code of conduct
- Risk management policy
- Ethics policy
PID Management Program
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) has overall responsibility for ensuring that WorkCover develops, implements and maintains a PID management program. The PID management program at WorkCover encompasses:
- commitment to encouraging the internal reporting of wrongdoing;
- senior management endorsement of the value to WorkCover of PIDs and the proper management of PIDs;
- a communication strategy to raise awareness among employees about PIDs and WorkCover's PID procedure;
- a training strategy to give employees access to training about how to make a PID, information on the support available to a discloser, and advice on how PIDs will be managed;
- specialist training and awareness about PIDs for senior management and other staff who may receive or manage PIDs, disclosers or workplace issues relating to PIDs;
- the appointment of delegated officers to be responsible for issues related to the management of PIDs;
- ensuring effective systems and procedures are in place so that issues and outcomes from PIDs inform improvements to service delivery, business processes and internal controls; and
- regular review of the PID procedures and evaluation of the effectiveness of the PID management program.
What is a PID?
A PID is a disclosure in the public interest, of information about wrongdoing in the public sector. Any person (whether or not they are a public officer) can make a disclosure about:
- a substantial and specific danger to the health or safety of a person with a disability;
- the commission of an offence, or contravention of a condition imposed under a provision of the legislation mentioned in Schedule 2 of the PID Act, if the offence or contravention would be a substantial and specific danger to the environment; or
- reprisal because of a belief that a person has made, or intends to make a disclosure.
In addition, public sector officers (i.e. WorkCover employee) can make disclosures about the following public interest matters:
- corrupt conduct;
- maladministration that adversely affects a person's interests in a substantial and specific way;
- a substantial misuse of public resources;
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or
- substantial and specific danger to the environment.
A discloser can have either a 'reasonable belief' that wrongdoing has occurred, or provide evidence which shows the wrongdoing has occurred.
An issue in relation to the acceptance or rejection of a workers' compensation claim is not a PID. Issues such as these are managed through WorkCover's review process. Complaints about WorkCover's services are managed through WorkCover's customer complaints policy.
Who can a PID be disclosed to
A PID must be made to a proper authority to receive disclosures of the type being made. Disclosers are initially encouraged to make a disclosure to an appropriate officer of WorkCover. If the matter is not resolved, or the discloser is concerned about confidentiality, the disclosure may be made externally to another appropriate agency, such as to a member of the Legislative Assembly or the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).
A disclosure can also be made to a journalist if a valid PID was initially made to WorkCover and if the following conditions are met:
- WorkCover decided not to investigate or deal with the disclosure;
- WorkCover investigated the disclosure but did not recommend taking any action;
- the discloser was not notified within six months of making the disclosure of whether or not the disclosure was to be investigated or dealt with.
A person who makes a disclosure to a journalist in these circumstances is protected under the PID Act. However, disclosers should be aware that journalists are not bound under the confidentiality provisions of section 65 of the PID Act.
How to make a PID
A discloser can make a PID in any way, including anonymously, either verbally or in writing. A person can make a PID internally:
- through the email address PID@workcoverqld.com.au;
- to any person in a supervisory or management position;
- to People and Workplace Experience;
- to WorkCover's CEO; or
- to a member of WorkCover's Board.
To assist in the assessment, and any subsequent investigation of a PID, disclosers are requested to:
- provide contact details i.e. email address or phone number;
- provide as much information as possible about the suspected wrongdoing, including:
- who was involved
- what, when and where it happened
- whether there were any witnesses, and if so who they are
- any evidence that supports the PID, and where the evidence is located
- any further information that could help investigate the PID
- provide this information in writing.
Role and Responsibilities for managing PIDs
The CEO has designated the following roles and responsibilities for managing PIDs within WorkCover.
Head of Risk and Assurance.
PID Support Officer
Member of the People and Workplace Experience team.
An appropriate internal or external investigator will be appointed for each PID investigated depending upon the type of disclosure and other relevant considerations.
The CEO will appoint the investigator in the event the matter being investigated relates to risk and assurance.
Delegated decision maker
An appropriate decision maker will be appointed for each PID investigated.
The CEO is the ultimate decision maker for any action as a result of internal investigations.
Deciding whether a matter is a PID
If there is any doubt as to whether a matter is a PID, further information may be obtained to inform the decision. If doubt still remains, the matter will be considered and managed as a PID.
A manager who receives a PID should immediately liaise with the PID Coordinator for guidance. Managers should not attempt to gather evidence, as this may compromise a potential investigation. All investigations into PIDs are conducted and coordinated by the PID Coordinator. All actions are performed in line with the PID Act and PID Standard No.2/2019. The PID Coordinator uses a PID assessment and investigation procedure to ensure compliance with the PID standards when undertaking assessments, investigations and management of PIDs.
It is an offence under the PID Act to intentionally give false or misleading information intending it be acted on as a PID. Employees may be subject to disciplinary action for intentionally giving false or misleading information in a PID, or during an investigation into a PID. Indicators of a false or misleading disclosure include:
- discloser has a history of making false or unsubstantiated complaints;
- there is no information to support the allegation in any way;
- allegation is not serious or sensible, and is of such a nature that a reasonable person could not treat it as genuine;
- allegation is, on face value, without foundation and appears to be designed to harass, annoy or embarrass the subject officer(s).
In circumstances where a discloser states they are making a PID, but it is assessed that the matter is not a PID, WorkCover will advise the discloser:
- that their information has been received but was not assessed as a PID;
- reasons for the decision;
- review rights available if the discloser is dissatisfied with the decision and how to request a review;
- any action WorkCover proposes to take in relation to the matter; and
- any other options the discloser has in relation to the matter.
Assessing a PID
The PID Coordinator will assess the disclosure in accordance with the PID Act, the PID standards and WorkCover's PID policy, and any other relevant procedures including the tax whistleblower arrangements .
Once the matter has been assessed as a PID, the PID Coordinator will advise the discloser:
- that their information has been received and assessed as a PID;
- the action to be taken by WorkCover in relation to the disclosure, which could include referring the matter to an external agency, or investigating;
- the likely timeframe involved;
- the name and contact details of WorkCover's Support Officer they can contact for updates and advice;
- of the disclosers obligations regarding confidentiality;
- the protections the discloser has under the PID Act;
- the commitment of WorkCover to keep appropriate records and maintain confidentiality. Except where permitted under the PID Act;
- how updates regarding intended actions and outcomes will be provided to the discloser; and
- contact details for WorkCover's Employee Assistance Program.
Referring a PID
WorkCover may decide there is another proper authority that is better able to deal with the PID, and refer the PID to either the CCC, police, ATO, OSR or another public sector entity, considered appropriate. It may also be necessary to refer the PID to another agency because of a legislative obligation such as the referral to CCC where there is reasonable suspicion that the matter involves or may involve corrupt conduct.
Where it is decided that a matter is to be referred to another entity, prior to referral the PID Coordinator will conduct a risk assessment and the referral will not proceed if there is an unacceptable risk of reprisal.
The confidentiality obligations of the PID Act permit appropriate officers of WorkCover to communicate with another agency about the referral of a PID. The officers will exercise discretion in their contacts with any other agency.
The discloser will be advised of the action taken by WorkCover.
Risk assessment and protection from reprisal
The PID Coordinator will conduct a risk assessment upon receipt of a PID to assess the likelihood of the discloser suffering reprisal action as a result of having made the disclosure. Actions may include developing a specific strategy to reduce the level of risk to the discloser, including consideration to the suspension or secondment of the person about who the disclosure was made. The strategy employed will be consistent with the assessed level of risk.
The PID Coordinator in consultation with the discloser and any other relevant stakeholder, will develop and implement a risk management plan and arrange any reasonably necessary support or protection for the discloser. The risk of reprisal is regularly assessed whilst managing the PID and, if required a review of the risk management plan.
Declining to take action on a PID
The PID Coordinator may decide not to investigate or deal with a PID in various circumstances, including:
- information disclosed has already been investigated or dealt with by another process;
- information disclosed should be dealt with by another process;
- age of the information makes it impractical to investigate;
- information disclosed is too trivial and dealing with it would substantially and unreasonably divert WorkCover from the performance of its functions; or
- another agency with jurisdiction to investigate the information has informed WorkCover that an investigation is not warranted.
If a decision is made not to investigate or deal with a PID, the PID Coordinator will give the discloser written reasons for that decision. If the discloser is dissatisfied with the decision they can request a review by writing to WorkCover's CEO within 28 days of receiving the written reasons for decision.
Communication with disclosers
The PID Coordinator, will acknowledge receipt of the PID in writing as soon as practicable. The discloser will be provided with information that meets the requirements of the PID Act and the PID standards, including:
- the action taken in response to the PID;
- the protections under the PID Act;
- confidentiality obligations of the discloser and WorkCover; and
- support arrangements
The PID Coordinator and the PID Support Officer will maintain contact with the discloser and provide regular updates during the management of the PID.
After finalising action in response to the PID, the PID Coordinator will advise the discloser in writing of the action taken and the results of the action.
WorkCover will make every attempt to protect confidentiality throughout the PID process. A discloser's identity may need to be disclosed to provide natural justice to subject officers or respond to a court order, legal directive or court proceedings. Confidential information includes:
- information about the identity, occupation, residential or work address or whereabouts of a person who made a PID or against whom a PID has been made;
- information disclosed through a PID;
- information about a person's personal affairs;
- information that, if disclosed, would cause detriment to a person.
WorkCover can disclose confidential information in the following circumstances:
- in accordance with the PID Act;
- if the person making the PID consents to the disclosure;
- if the person cannot reasonably get the consent to whom the confidential information relates;
- if the disclosure is unlikely to affect the interests of the person to whom the disclosure relates and is reasonable in all circumstances;
- if the disclosure of the confidential information is necessary to provide for the safety or welfare of a person; or
- if authorised under a regulation or another Act.
The following people at WorkCover will have access to PIDs including the information in the PID register, unless with the discloser's prior consent or where required by law:
- PID Coordinator;
- PID Support Officer;
- People and Workplace Experience;
- Delegated Officer;
- Board; and
- Risk and Audit Committee.
Support for disclosers
WorkCover recognises that providing appropriate support to a discloser is an important feature of effective PID management.
An employee who has made a PID in accordance with the PID Act:
- is not subject to any civil or criminal liability or any liability arising by way of administrative process, including disciplinary action, for making a disclosure;
- has not committed an offence under any Act that imposes a duty to maintain confidentiality; and
- has a defence of 'absolute privilege' in the case of a defamation action in relation to the information disclosed in the PID.
The PID Coordinator will undertake an assessment to identify the support needs of a discloser. Where appropriate, a PID Support Officer will be assigned to the discloser. The PID Support Officer will assist the discloser to access information about PIDs, protections available under the PID Act and the PID management process. The PID Support Officer will proactively contact the discloser to offer support.
Information and support will be provided to the discloser until the matter is finalised.
Making a PID does not prevent reasonable management action. That means that the discloser will continue to be managed in accordance with normal, fair and reasonable management practices during and after the handling of the PID.
Investigating a PID
If the PID Coordinator makes the decision to investigate a PID, this will be done with consideration to:
- principles of natural justice;
- obligation under the PID Act to protect confidential information;
- obligation under the PID Act to protect officers from reprisal; and
- interests of subject officers.
If as a result of investigation, the information about wrongdoing provided in the PID is substantiated, appropriate action will be taken.
Where the investigation does not substantiate wrongdoing, WorkCover will review systems, policies and procedures to identify whether there are improvements that can be made and consider if staff training is required.
Rights of subject officer
Subject officers who have had a PID made against them are assumed to be innocent of any adverse allegation until there is evidence to the required standard of proof to show otherwise.
WorkCover will protect their rights by:
- assuring them that the PID will be dealt with impartiality, fairly and reasonably in accordance with natural justice;
- confirming that the PID is an allegation only until information or evidence obtained through an investigation substantiates the allegation;
- providing them with information about their rights and the progress and outcome of any investigation; and
- referring them to the Employee Assistance Program for support.
The PID Coordinator and PID Support Officer will ensure that:
- accurate data is collected about the receipt and management of PIDs through the maintenance of a PID register; and
- anonymised data is reported to the Queensland Ombudsman through the PID reporting database.
Records about disclosures, investigations and related decisions will be kept secure and accessible only to appropriately delegated officers involved in the management of the PID.
PIDs will be reported quarterly to the Risk and Audit Committee. The PID Coordinator is responsible for reporting PIDs through to the Queensland Ombudsman.
(a) means any action about a matter of administration, including, for example:
(i) a decision and an act; and
A stated belief or claim that is yet to be substantiated on the balance of probabilities.
Where the person disclosing information does not identify themselves at any stage, to anyone.
(a) includes —
(i) information about the identity, occupation, residential or work address or whereabouts of a person —
(b) does not include information publicly disclosed in a public interest disclosure made to a court, tribunal or other entity that may receive evidence under oath, unless further disclosure of the information is prohibited by law.
As defined in section 15 of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.
(a) personal injury or prejudice to safety; and
As defined in section 11 of the Disability Services Act 2006.
A person who makes a public interest disclosure in accordance with the PID Act.
A person engaged in the occupation of writing or editing material intended for publication in the print or electronic news media.
As defined in schedule 4 of the PID Act defines maladministration as administrative action that:
(a) was taken contrary to law; or
(i) for an improper purpose; or
Natural justice, also referred to as 'procedural fairness' applies to any decision that can affect the rights, interests or expectations of individuals in a direct or immediate way. Natural justice is at law a safeguard applying to an individual whose rights or interests are being affected.
The rules of natural justice, which have been developed to ensure that decision-making is fair and reasonable, are:
A person or organisation that is authorised under the PID Act to receive disclosures
Public Health and Safety
Includes the health or safety of persons:
A public officer, of a public sector entity, is an employee, member or officer of the entity.
A view which is objectively fair or sensible.
Reasonable management action
Action taken by a manager in relation to an employee, includes any of the following taken by the manager—
(a) a reasonable appraisal of the employee's work performance;
The term 'reprisal' is defined under the PID Act as causing, attempting to cause or conspiring to cause detriment to another person in the belief that they or someone else:
Reprisal under the PID Act is a criminal offence and investigations may be undertaken by the Queensland Police Service.
An officer who is the subject of allegations of wrongdoing made in a disclosure.
Substantial and specific
Substantial means “of a significant or considerable degree”. It must be more than trivial or minimal and have some weight or important.
Specific means “precise or particular”. This refers to conduct or detriment that is able to be identified or particularised as opposed to broad or general concerns or criticisms.
For further clarification of this policy, please email PID@workcoverqld.com.au.