The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the transposition of the EU Whistleblowing Directive into Irish law. Ireland is one of just 10 EU Member States to already have comprehensive legal protections for whistleblowers in the form of the Protected Disclosures Act. The Act will be amended to give effect to the Directive and to further enhance and strengthen the protections it provides.
This means that, volunteers, unpaid trainees, board members, shareholders and job applicants will all come within the scope of the Protected Disclosures Act for the first time.
Private sector organisations with 50 or more employees will be required to establish formal channels and procedures for their employees to make protected disclosures, just like the public sector.
Employers and prescribed persons who receive protected disclosures will be required to acknowledge them and follow-up on the allegations made and give feedback to the reporting person within three months.
Where a person takes a case to the WRC or the courts concerning penalisation for having made a protected disclosure, the burden of proof will be reversed – it will be assumed that the alleged act of penalisation occurred because the worker made a protected disclosure unless their employer can prove otherwise.
A Protected Disclosures Office will be established in the Office of the Ombudsman to support the operation of the Act in relation to reporting to prescribed persons and Government Ministers.
Speaking upon the occasion of the publication of the General Scheme, the Minister said:
“Once enacted, this Bill will further strengthen and enhance the protections for whistleblowers in Ireland – a key commitment made in the Programme for Government – and I am very happy to be publishing these proposals after receiving Government approval.
"Ireland already has protections in place for whistle blowers but this legislation goes further and will ensure that the disclosure will be followed up on in a timely manner. Those making a protected disclosure are entitled to receive feedback on what they clearly regard as serious matters contained in their disclosure and this Bill will ensure this takes place.
"The measures will also give added confidence to the whistleblower that they will not be forced to prove that they were penalised for doing the right thing. The full Bill will now be drafted and I look forward to bringing it through the Oireachtas in due course. In the meantime I look forward to hearing the views of Oireachtas colleagues and key stakeholders on the General Scheme of the Bill being published today."
The General Scheme will now be referred to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Taoiseach for Pre-Legislative Scrutiny.
Directive (EU) 2019/1937
of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law (“the Whistleblowing Directive”) must be transposed into Irish law by 17 December 2021.
Ireland already has comprehensive whistleblower protection laws in place in the form of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014
. Transposition of the Whistleblowing Directive will, however, require amendments to the 2014 Act.
The key provisions of the Bill are as follows:
The extension of the personal scope of the Protected Disclosures Act to volunteers, unpaid trainees, board members, shareholders and job applicants.
An obligation on all private sector organisations with 50 or more employees to establish formal channels and procedures for their employees to make protected disclosures. A derogation until 17 December 2023 will be put in place as regards this requirement for organisations with between 50 and 249 employees. All public sector organisations, regardless of size, are already required to have formal protected disclosures procedures in place under the 2014 Act.
Employers and prescribed persons
designated to receive protected disclosures under the Act will be subject to an obligation to:
Acknowledge receipt of the protected disclosure within 7 days;
Follow-up diligently on the information contained in the protected disclosure; and
Provide feedback to the reporting person on the actions taken or envisaged to be taken as follow-up within 3 months.
A Protected Disclosures Office will be established within the Office of the Ombudsman, which will:
Receive and redirect, as appropriate, protected disclosures made to prescribed persons under section 7 of the 2014 Act;
Support Ministers who receive protected disclosures under section 8 of the 2014 Act by carrying out an initial assessment of the disclosure and making recommendations as regards actions for follow-up; and
In cases where there is no alternative suitable authority follow-up directly on disclosures referred to the office.
Reversal of the burden of proof in civil cases concerning penalisation of whistleblowers at the WRC and the courts. This means that it will be assumed that the alleged penalisation has occurred as a result of the worker making a protected disclosure and it will be the responsibility of the employer to prove otherwise.
Claire Godkin - Press Officer, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform - 085 806 3969