The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 was brought into law on 15 July 2014. It provides protection for workers who report concerns about wrongdoing in the public, private and non-profit sectors (i.e. “whistle-blowers”). The objective of the Act is to enable workers to make disclosures without fear of suffering consequential detriment. The broader objective of the Act is to promote a culture of public accountability and openness and to improve Ireland’s international reputation for transparency.
If an employee becomes aware of a wrongdoing, they may report the wrongdoing to their employer or, in certain circumstances, elsewhere. Once a disclosure is made that complies with the Act, the person disclosing the wrongdoing is protected against victimisation and from most civil proceedings. Anonymous disclosures are also protected. The Act protects a “worker” – defined as not only an employee but also anybody who is contracted to do work which is “substantially determined” by the person for whom the individual works or a third party. This means that independent contractors, agency workers and even volunteers may be included. Trainees are also specifically included.
If an employee reports a wrongdoing to their employer and they are subsequently penalised or dismissed as a consequence, the employee or their trade union can bring a case against the employer.
Employers should have a policy setting out in clear language what a worker should do if any wrongdoing comes to their attention and should nominate a credible person to whom the worker can speak in confidence. If a worker makes allegations or produces material to suggest that someone within the organisation has committed, is committing or is about to commit a wrongdoing, the matter should be taken seriously and properly investigated to see if there is any substance to the allegations and take action against the wrongdoer if the investigation finds the allegations to be true.
The Minister has said that he intends to bring in a written policy for public bodies and this may be useful guidance for employers in the private sector.