Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin TD has published the Protected Disclosure Bill 2013. This Bill will establish a detailed legislative framework to protect whistleblowers in all sectors of the economy.
According to the Minister, the Bill “provides for the first time a comprehensive whistleblower protection across all sectors of the economy addressing what has been identified – both nationally and internationally – as a significant gap in Ireland’s legal framework for combating corruption”.
The legislation is intended to provide a robust statutory framework allowing workers to raise concerns regarding potential wrongdoing in their place of work, safe in the knowledge that they can avail of significant employment and other protections if they are penalised by their employer or suffer any detriment for doing so.
The publication of this Bill sees the Government fulfilling its commitment to introduce whistleblower protection legislation as per the Programme for Government and also fulfills the recommendation to introduce of pan-sectoral whistleblower protection legislation made in the Final Report of the Mahon Tribumal.
The legislation contained in the Bill closely reflects international best practice recommendations on whistleblower protection made by, the G20/OECD, the UN and the Council of Europe.
Some features of the new Bill include:
Compensation of up to a maximum of five years remuneration can be awarded in the case of an unfair dismissal for having made a protected disclosure.
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.
Where a whistleblower or, for example, a member of his family experiences coercion, intimidation harassment, discrimination at the hands of a third-party the legislation provides for a right of action in tort against that person.
Commenting on the new Bill, Minister Howlin said: “… its planned enactment in the autumn should instill 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”.