With the passing of the Protected Disclosures Act, Ireland now has comprehensive whistleblowing legislation in place across all sectors.
Whilst there has been previous legislation protecting whistleblowers in certain sectors, this new legislation covers all sectors and provides more protection than any of the previous legislation.
The legislation broadly follows the UK concept of worker protection for making a ‘protected disclosure’. A disclosure is a protected disclosure if it relates to a ‘relevant wrongdoing’, and relevant wrongdoings include:
The motivation for making the disclosure is irrelevant but there is a provision allowing for the compensation payable under the Act to be reduced by up to 50% where the investigation of the relevant wrongdoing was not the only or main motivation for making the disclosure.
The Act encourages the vast majority of disclosures to be made to the employer in the first instance. However, it provides for a stepped disclosure regime with a number of other avenues open to workers where this is inappropriate or impossible.
Other options include disclosure to a ‘prescribed person’, with a list of prescribed persons yet to be determined by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and disclosure to a legal advisor.
The Act provides protection from dismissal for having made a protected disclosure with compensation of up to five years’ pay, and there is also protection from victimisation by the employer and civil immunity from action for damages.
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