Corruption Matters - October 2017 - Issue 48

Assessing reprisal risk

by NSW Deputy Ombudsman Chris Wheeler   

When it comes to staff reporting wrongdoing in the workplace, all public authorities have an obligation to manage the risk that these staff members may face detrimental action in reprisal. The NSW Ombudsman has released a new template and revised guidance to assist authorities to identify, analyse, treat and monitor the risk of reprisals and any related workplace conflict.


Accurate and objective assessments of risk allow authorities to properly defend themselves against any future allegations of having mismanaged the reporting process. In an audit that was conducted by the NSW Ombudsman on the handling of allegations of reprisal, we found that a risk assessment was warranted in each case and would have assisted the authority in managing and preventing reprisals from occurring.

A risk assessment process helps determine the level of protection and support that is appropriate for a reporter. Undertaking the assessment as soon as possible after a report of wrongdoing is made gives the authority the best chance of preventing or containing problems. It should include the identification and assessment of both direct and indirect (for example, related sources of workplace conflict or difficulties) risks of detrimental action in reprisal.

Some of the steps for assessing risk are outlined below.

Our PID risk assessment template can be used by authorities to document this process.
For further advice on assessing the risk of reprisal, see Assessing risk of reprisals and conflict, or contact the NSW Ombudsman’s PID Unit at or 02 9286 1000.

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