Whistleblowing

Author:Mr David Fagan
Profession:Eversheds O'Donnell Sweeney
 
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A whistleblower is a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing in an organisation. The misconduct can be a violation of the law or internal rules/ regulations or in some cases, for example where there is an occurrence of fraud or corruption, a direct threat to public interest.

The term "whistleblower" originates from the actions of British police officers, who would blow their whistles when they noticed the commission of a crime.

Whistleblowers have been responsible for exposing abuse, corruption and unethical wrongdoing and with the recent increase in corporate and political scandals, it may be useful for employers to have whistleblowing mechanisms in place.

The legislation protecting whistleblowers in Ireland is piecemeal. In 1999, the Labour Party unsuccessfully attempted to introduce the Whistleblowers Protection Bill 1999, which was modelled on the UK Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998. The Bill proceeded to the Second Stage but was ultimately dropped due to "legal complexities".

Legislation now exists on a "sectoral" basis and only protects employees in some professions and sectors. The current Irish legislation safeguards whistleblowers reporting (or "disclosing"):

suspicions of child abuse/neglect (Protection for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998); breaches of the Ethics Acts; breaches of Competition Law (Competition Act 2002); matters related to workplace health & safety (Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005); Gardaí and Garda civilian employees reporting corruption and malpractice; healthcare employees reporting threats to the health and welfare of patients (Health Act 2007); offences relating to employment permits; the regulation of communications; consumer protection; offences relating to chemicals; breaches of charities law; and offences under the NAMA Act 2009. There are provisions in the above legislation to protect whistleblowers after they have reported an offence. However, to qualify for the protection, the reporting of the offence must generally be reasonable and done in good faith. In particular, there is no protection from dismissal per se, although many (but not all) employees will have some protection under the Unfair Dismissals Acts.

There is great inconsistency in the protections offered to a person making a disclosure and the forum for bringing a claim differs under the various statutes.

There are no whistleblower protections under Company Law or in relation to the provision of financial...

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