The territory’s Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay says she’ll be monitoring new whistleblower training being developed by the Yukon government to ensure it provides “adequate awareness” to government staff. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Guidelines for whistleblower legislation released

Effective training will be key, says Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner

Whistleblower legislation and the guidelines surrounding it are the focus of new training being developed by the Yukon government.

Public Service Commission spokesperson Nigel Allen confirmed May 30 the department is developing online training for both supervisors and employees.

“We are aiming to have that in place in June or July,” he stated in an email, adding that documents around the Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act legislation (PIDWA), more commonly known as whistleblower legislation, and guidelines are also available to staff through the government’s internal website.

The territory’s Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner (PIDC) Diane McLeod-McKay says she’ll be monitoring that training to ensure it provides “adequate awareness” to government staff.

McLeod-McKay made the statement May 30, following the release of the guidelines.

She said she’s pleased guidelines have been adopted to educate government staff of their rights and obligations under the legislation that was adopted in 2015.

The 13-page document outlines how government employees can make a disclosure of wrongdoing, the roles of supervisors and management in recognizing and dealing with disclosures and how employees can make a complaint of reprisal.

It’s a process that’s not well-understood, McLeod-McKay said.

And that can lead to a number of issues ranging from employees who may not receive the protection from reprisal they’re entitled to under the legislation to employees who may not recognize when a disclosure is made to them under the legislation.

The guidelines provide a step-by-step process for employees and supervisors.

“I am continuing to work to increase awareness of PIDWA, but I’m also pleased that the Yukon government is assisting with this guidance document,” she said.

“I was able to review the guidelines before they were finalized and provide my input, most of which was accepted.”

The key recommendation in the 10 pages of suggestions she provided builds in security to ensure the identity of anyone making a disclosure will be protected.

“That was a key recommendation,” she said.

There were, however, a few recommendations that were not accepted that McLeod-McKay said she hopes will find their way into future iterations of the guidelines.

They include collecting a minimal amount of information from those making disclosures — their name, work place and contact information — so it is available should there be an issue of reprisal; providing a copy of written disclosures to the person that has made the disclosure; and establishing timelines to ensure the matters don’t “fall through the cracks.”

“There’s no timelines,” McLeod-McKay said, adding she has indicated she will be following up with Richard Mostyn, the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, to encourage the recommendations be added in the next go-around of the guidelines.

As officials have said, the guidelines are a “living document.” In other words, changes can be made as experience is gained.

“I see this as a positive first step,” McLeod-McKay said, adding she is encouraging public bodies to develop their own disclosure procedures as set out in the act.

“Such procedures would help ensure the process is managed by an individual who is properly trained on receiving and investigating disclosures of wrongdoing.

“This individual would also be responsible for ensuring the identity of the disclosing employee is protected to mitigate the risk of reprisal. A key step is to ensure employees are well educated about the procedures, once developed.”

McLeod-McKay said she’d like to see training provided to government staff as soon as possible.

“It really will come down to effective training,” she said of what kind of difference the guidelines will make, again emphasizing she will be monitoring the training to ensure government staff receive it and understand the legislation.

McLeod-McKay said her office has not received any disclosures related to PIDWA yet in 2019.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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