Employment Law And Benefits Update Government Publishes Bill To Protect Whistleblowers

Author:Ms Elizabeth Ryan and Catherine-Ellen O'Keeffe
Profession:Mason Hayes & Curran

On 3 July 2013, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin TD, published the Protected Disclosure Bill 2013 (the "Bill") which he referred to as "Ireland's legal framework for combating corruption". This is the first time that a single overarching piece of legislation will apply to protect whistleblowers in all sectors of the economy.

The need for robust whistleblower legislation has never been more apparent than in recent times. Internationally, the Snowden saga has raised questions as to the extent to which workers are protected if they disclose information about actions of their employer where they believe wrongdoing has occurred. Nationally, we have experienced a financial crisis which has exposed significant shortcomings in the transparency and corporate governance of our financial institutions. In this ezine, we set out some key considerations for employers of the provisions of the Bill.

Key Elements

What does the Bill aim to do?

The Bill aims to protect workers from penalisation where they make a disclosure of information that comes to their attention in their workplace and which falls within the definition of a "protected disclosure".

Who will be protected by the Bill?

The Bill does not confine itself to protecting persons in the traditional employer/employee relationship, but instead, it uses the wider term "worker". The protection and remedies provided for in the Bill will therefore also apply to contractors, trainees, agency staff and home workers.

Significantly, the Government has indicated there is no service requirement for workers who wish to seek redress under the Bill. This could potentially lead to claims from employees whose employment contracts have been terminated and who have less than the one years' service required in order to bring a claim for unfair dismissal and who may try to "fit" their claim within the parameters of the protection under the Bill.

What is a "protected disclosure"?

In order for a disclosure of information to be classifed as a protected disclosure, the worker needs to be in a position to demonstrate that he reasonably believed the information shows one of the following:

That an offence has been, is being or is likely to be committed; That a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with a legal obligation other than one arising under the worker's contract with the employer; That a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occuring or likely to occur; That...

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