Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act - Information for supervisors at all levels

The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA) encourages public sector employees to come forward if they believe that wrongdoing has occurred or is about to occur in the workplace.

In most federal public sector organizations, employees have the choice of making disclosures either to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada, to their organization's Senior Officer for Disclosure or to their Supervisor.

As a supervisor, therefore, you need to be aware of your roles and responsibilities to:

Show visible leadership to foster an ethical culture of right-doing

  • Demonstrate in your professional conduct the values, principles, and standards of conduct of your organization, and integrate these into your daily work environment.
  • Maintain a work environment in which employees feel safe to raise issues and report perceived wrongdoing.
  • For more information on values and ethics or codes of conduct, contact your organization's subject matter experts.

Inform employees about the PSDPA, their options for making disclosures, the protection the PSDPA provides and where to go if they need more information

  • Employees need to know three key things:
    • That there are safe procedures for making disclosures within the organization or to the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada;
    • That the process provides certain confidentiality and the PSDPA protects them from reprisals;
    • That the process provides certain confidentiality and the PSDPA protects them from reprisals;
    • Where to go if they need more information.
  • If your organization has established an internal disclosure mechanism, ensure that your employees are aware of their three choices for making disclosures:
    • To you, as their supervisor;
    • To your organization's Senior Officer for Disclosure (provide name and contact information);
    • To the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada (provide name and contact information).
  • If your organization does not have an internal disclosure process (smaller organizations may not have this mechanism), ensure that your employees know this, and have the contact information for the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada.
  • Employees should have a general understanding about how the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act defines wrongdoing; about the legal advice available for those considering making a disclosure, and about the reprisal protections and confidentiality provisions.
  • More information and helpful guides about Public Servants Disclosure Protection is available online.
  • In addition, your organization's Senior Officer for Disclosure can provide further information and advice, including information about your organization's internal disclosure process.

Receive disclosures of wrongdoing from employees and report them to the Senior Officer for Disclosure

  • The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act defines wrongdoing as:
    • the contravention of any federal or provincial law or related regulation;
    • the misuse of public funds or assets;
    • gross mismanagement in the federal public sector;
    • a serious breach of a code of conduct;
    • an act or omission that endangers the life, health or safety of Canadians or the environment; or
    • directing or counseling someone to commit a wrongdoing.
  • It is not restricted to activities of public servants and includes any wrongdoing in or in relation to the public sector. The definition is intended for serious cases of wrongdoing.
  • If an employee provides you with information regarding a possible wrongdoing you need to decide whether it is a disclosure of wrongdoing as defined by the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, or whether it is a situation that should be dealt with under another process, such as a grievance or through other recourse mechanisms.
  • Disclosures that do not suggest a possible serious wrongdoing but concern cases that are minor in nature may fall within your authority and responsibility to address as manager of your work unit. If in doubt, seek advice from your Senior Officer for Disclosure. If you believe the employee's information concerns a potential wrongdoing as defined under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, treat it as a disclosure.
  • Outline to the employee the steps that will be taken, for example, that you will report it to the Senior Officer for Disclosure, who will contact the employee and review the disclosure to determine if it warrants an investigation.
  • Inform the employee that the matter will be treated in confidence and that his or her identity will be protected to the extent possible.
  • Follow the procedures established in your organization to receive and deal with the disclosure at your level or if it should be referred in confidence to the Senior Officer for Disclosure.
  • Your organization may have learning opportunities available for supervisors and other key personnel regarding how to deal with disclosures of wrongdoing and how to prevent reprisal. Check with your Senior Officer for Disclosure.

Protect the identity of all persons involved in the disclosure process.

  • Protect the identities of the employee making the disclosure and other persons involved in a disclosure situation. This means you should keep disclosure records separate from existing files and only reveal information about the disclosure and the person who made the disclosure to investigators or to the Senior Officer for Disclosure or otherwise as directed by the Senior Officer.
  • If you have questions or need advice about confidentiality in the disclosure process, consult your Senior Officer for Disclosure.

Protect employee from possible reprisals

  • Protect the confidentiality of the employee making a disclosure and of any other person involved in a disclosure process, including safeguarding disclosure records.
  • Follow organizational procedures for the handling of disclosures and preventing reprisals.
  • Ensure employees who make a disclosure or who are witnesses in disclosure investigations are aware of protections from reprisals provided in the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, including:
    • that reprisals are strictly prohibited;
    • that an employee who believes he or she has been the victim of a reprisal, may raise the matter with their supervisor, Senior Officer for Disclosure, or the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (PSIC) of Canada for advice; and
    • that all formal reprisal complaints, however, must be made directly to the PSIC within 60 days of the public servant becoming aware that a reprisal may have occurred.
  • If an employee raises a concern about possible reprisal, contact your Senior Officer for Disclosure immediately for advice on measures that can be taken to address the situation in a timely way.
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