The Whistleblowers’ Act

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More commonly known as the “Whistleblowers’ Act”, the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 came into force in Ireland on 15 July 2014. Its aim is to protect workers who report wrongdoing in their workplace. The Act provides for a single piece of legislation for the protection of whistleblowers as opposed to the disjointed approach adopted in Ireland to date. What will be the impact on employers?

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The Whistleblowers’ Act

  1. 1.   The Whistleblowers’ Act Publication Date: 22 July 2014 | Author(s): Elizabeth Mara Member Firm(s): LK Shields Solicitors Country: Ireland More commonly known as the “Whistleblowers’ Act”, the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 came into force in Ireland on 15 July 2014. Its aim is to protect workers who report wrongdoing in their workplace. The Act provides for a single piece of legislation for the protection of whistleblowers as opposed to the disjointed approach adopted in Ireland to date. Who is covered? The Act affords a range of protections for all workers. The term “worker” includes employees, former employees, contractors, consultants, trainees and agency staff who make certain disclosures regarding "relevant wrongdoings" arising in the workplace. The term "relevant wrongdoing" includes the following: • the commission or likely commission of a criminal offence; • failure to comply with any legal obligation (other than one arising out of the worker's contract of employment); • a miscarriage of justice; • health and safety issues; • damage to the environment; • unlawful or improper use of public funds; • an act or omission by a public body that is oppressive, discriminatory, grossly negligent or constitutes gross mismanagement; • the concealment or destruction of information in relation to any of the above. The worker’s motivation for making the disclosure is irrelevant. Method of Disclosure Workers are encouraged to make their disclosure to their employer in the first instance. Where this is not appropriate a worker can make it to external parties - including a prescribed person by a Minister (e.g. a regulatory body); a Minister (where the worker works in a public body) or a legal advisor in the course of obtaining legal advice. Protections Where a disclosure is properly made, the worker will attract various protections including protection from penalisation (eg suspension, demotion and dismissal). Where a worker is unfairly dismissed for making a protected disclosure, compensation of up to 5 years' remuneration may be awarded. Such an award is considerably in excess of the maximum award of 2 years' remuneration under the Unfair Dismissals Acts and is designed to act as a
  2. 2.     deterrent. In addition, an employee who claims to have been dismissed or threatened with dismissal for having made a protected disclosure can apply to the Irish courts to restrain the dismissal. A worker making a protected disclosure may also be entitled to anonymity in certain circumstances. This protection is likely to make the conduct of workplace investigations more challenging as employers need to ensure that they comply with the principles of natural justice and fair procedures arising from the Irish Constitution. Requirements Public sector employers are required to have a whistleblowing policy in place. It is also advisable for private sector employers to put a whistleblowing policy in place, which is appropriate to their business and existing policies and procedures. Such a policy should ensure that structures and training are in place to enable compliance. Taken from the Ius Laboris Knowledge Base: www.globalhrlaw.com About Ius Laboris Ius Laboris is an alliance of law firms offering employers cross-border employment and pensions law advice. It has 1,300 specialist HR lawyers in over 150 cities and 44 countries. Ius Laboris offers access to the best local HR law experts in one global team with 20% more ranked employment lawyers (Chambers & Partners, November 2013) than any other global HR legal services organisation. Further, Ius Laboris has 50% more recommended lawyers than its nearest rival in a recent survey in PLC's employment law guide. Clients include many household names as well as multinational companies in all sectors ranging from energy, retail and technology to pharmaceuticals. For more information on Ius Laboris, please visit iuslaboris.com.

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