Mandatory reporting

You as an employer are now required to report to the SWRB if you have any concerns about any of your social workers in regard to serious misconduct, health issues, and competence.

This is part of changes required under legislation as public safety is paramount. There is further information below:

Serious Misconduct

Employers are required to report promptly and in writing to the SWRB if they believe a social worker they employ has engaged in serious misconduct.

Draft criteria for mandatory reporting have been developed, as below.

Draft criteria mandatory reporting

It is now mandatory for employers to report to the SWRB if they believe a social worker employed by them has engaged in serious misconduct, following recent amendments to the Social Workers Registration Act 2003. Serious misconduct is defined in the Social Workers Registration Act 2003 (the Act) but the SWRB is required to set the criteria for reporting by employers.

Serious misconduct in this context may differ from serious misconduct as referred to in employment contracts. The requirement to report possible serious misconduct does not prevent employers from following their usual employment process to deal with the reported allegations. 

Currently the Act defines serious misconduct as conduct that:

  • has, or is likely to have an unduly adverse effect on the wellbeing of any person with whom the social worker comes into contact in the course of their practice as a social worker; or
  • reflects adversely on the social worker’s fitness to be a social worker, and
  • is of a character and severity that meets the SWRB’s criteria for reporting serious misconduct.

The following draft criteria are intended to enable employers to confidently determine when a report is required.


  • Failing to protect a client due to deliberate or reckless negligence
  • Actions or omissions that could be the subject of a criminal charge for which the social worker could potentially be imprisoned for 3 months or more
  • Use of unjustified physical force on any person
  • Encouraging another person to use unjustified physical force on any person
  • The neglect or ill-treatment of any person or animal
  • Workplace bullying, theft or dishonesty/fraud that is severe enough to undermine the employer’s trust and confidence in the social worker’s suitability to practise social work
  • Viewing, accessing, or possessing pornography at work
  • Involvement in the manufacture, cultivation, supply, or use of controlled drugs (with or without conviction)
  • Repeated, intentional breaches of the SWRB Code of Conduct
  • Engaging in inappropriate contact or behaviours with or towards a client or vulnerable person
  • Engaging in inappropriate communications with or towards a client or vulnerable person
  • Intentionally damaging property in front a client or vulnerable person
  • Making threats towards any person
  • Harassment of any person
  • Being impaired by drugs or alcohol while responsible for the welfare of a client or vulnerable person
  • Physical, sexual, psychological or emotional abuse of any person
  • Any act or pattern of behaviour that is likely to bring discredit to the social work profession

Health issues

Employers are required to report to the SWRB any health issues that may be impacting upon the social worker’s practice.


If an employer has concerns about a social worker’s competence, there is a two step process:

  1. The first step for the employer is to investigate and provide assistance to improve competence. 
  2. If there are still issues after assistance to improve competence, the employer must report that to the SWRB.

If you are not sure about whether to report an issue, please call us on:

04 931 2650 or freephone 0508 797 269

Supporting staff

Employers’ support of social workers is appreciated. As the sector shifts to mandatory registration, you can show this support by encouraging social workers to become registered and to hold a valid Practising Certificate, which is renewed each year. Registered social workers are also required to do 20 hours of Continuing Professional Development each year.