The Protected Disclosure Bill 2013 was published on July 3rd 2013 by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, T.D. The Bill is to establish a comprehensive legislative framework protecting whistleblowers in all industries in Ireland.
The purpose of the legislation is to protect workers who raise concerns regarding wrongdoing (or potential wrongdoing) that they have become aware of in the workplace. The Bill will offer significant employment and other protections to whistleblowers if they suffer any penalties at the hands of their employer for coming forward with information of wrongdoing in the workplace.
The legislation, which is due to be enacted in the autumn, closely reflects best practices in whistleblowing protection in developed nations around the world.
According to Minister Howlin the Bill “should instil all workers with confidence that should they ever need to take that decisive step and speak-up on concerns that they have about possible misconduct in the workplace, they will find that society values their actions as entirely legitimate, appropriate and in the public interest”.
Some key elements included in the Bill are as follows:
Compensation of up to a maximum of five years remuneration can be awarded in the case of an unfair dismissal that came about as a result of making a protected disclosure. This would be a massive step forward in Ireland’s attempt to match the standards set by other established nations.
It is important to note that limitations relating to the length of service that usually apply in the case of Unfair Dismissals are set aside in the case of protected disclosures.
As a result of this Bill whistleblowers will benefit from civil immunity from actions for damages and a qualified privilege under defamation law.
The legislation provides a number of disclosure channels for potential whistleblowers and stresses that the disclosure, rather than the whistleblower, should be the focus of the attention.
Protections for the whistleblower remain in place even where the information disclosed does not reveal any wrongdoing when examined. Deliberate false reporting, however, will not be protected.
These measures, when enacted, should encourage more people to come forward, and feel comfortable doing so, when they become aware of (or suspect) any criminal activity, misconduct or wrongdoing in the workplace.