Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) has welcomed the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which became law today.
“The Act is a very important step in providing whistleblowers with the protection they deserve,” said John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland.
“The new law draws on best practice guidelines and takes a more comprehensive approach similar to that adopted in the UK, New Zealand and South Africa. For the first time, whistleblower legislation offers a safety net to workers in all sectors of the Irish economy,” he added.
Key provisions in the Act include:
A prohibition on penalising workers who make protected disclosures and a wide definition of ‘worker’ to include employees, contractors, agency workers and work experience students.
A broad range of ‘relevant wrongdoings’ which can be reported including criminal offences, breaches of legal obligations, threats to health and safety or the environment, miscarriages of justice, improper use of public funds or any attempt to conceal information in relation to such wrongdoings.
‘While the Act is not perfect and will not affect cultural change on its own, the new legislation should prove to be far clearer and more reliable than legislation enacted up until recently. It is now in the interests of all employers to take steps to comply with the new law, to minimise the risks of adverse litigation and loss of reputation – and to make use of the opportunity to address any problems within their organisations at an early stage’ said Susheela Math, TI Ireland’s Legal Counsellor.
TI Ireland has campaigned for the introduction of a blanket piece of legislation since 2007 and has operated Ireland’s only free-phone helpline for whistleblowers since 2011. The non-profit organisation has been heavily involved in shaping the new law and helped influence new provisions including a wider definition of ‘worker’, stronger protection of the whistleblower’s identity and stronger rights for whistleblowers to take legal action for any harm they suffer.
2. TI Ireland will launch a guide to whistleblowing this autumn
3. Additional provisions in the Act include:
a) An extension of unfair dismissal law, providing employees with protection from ‘day one’, up to five years’ compensation and interim relief.
b) Immunity from civil/criminal liability and a defence of qualified privilege in defamation proceedings.
c) Restrictions on disclosure of identity.
d) A right of tort where detriment is suffered as a result of a protected disclosure having been made. Significantly, the legislation has been drafted widely enough to bring into scope family members of whistleblowers who may be able to issue proceedings for damages in their own right for (for example) blacklisting.
e) Positive duties on public bodies to establish procedures and publish annual reports.
Susheela Math, Legal Counsellor