The legislation has effect from 1 January 2023.
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 as amended by the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022, protects workers in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors from retaliation if they speak up about wrongdoing in the workplace. Workers can report wrongdoing internally to their employer or externally to a third party, such as a prescribed person. Persons who make protected disclosures (sometimes referred to as “whistleblowers”) are protected by law , meaning they should not be treated unfairly or lose their job because they have made a protected disclosure.
The new legislation imposes new requirements on employers in both the public and private sectors and also for prescribed persons. These requirements are summarised here:
Internal reporting channels and procedures
All organisations with 250 or more employees must establish internal channels and procedures for their workers to report wrongdoing.
From 17 December 2023, this requirement applies to all organisations with 50 or more employees.
All organisations subject to EU laws and regulations in the areas of financial services; prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing; transport safety; and safety of offshore gas and oil operations must establish internal channels regardless of size.
All public sector organisations must establish internal channels regardless of size.
The internal channel should be designed and operated in a secure, GDPR compliant, manner that ensures the confidentiality of the reporting person and any other person(s) named in the report.
Designation of a person or function to operate the channel, who will maintain communication with the reporting person, follow-up on the report and provide feedback to the reporting person.
This person or function should have sufficient independence and authority within the organisation to carry out the functions specified in the Act.
Persons operating the internal channel should be adequately trained in the handling of reports.
The organisation must promote the existence of the internal channel and ensure workers have access to the procedures under which it operates.
Organisations can outsource the internal channel function if they wish.
Procedures for internal reporting
The internal procedures established must include: -
Acknowledgement of all reports received, in writing, within 7 days.
Diligent follow-up on all reports received.
The provision of feedback to the reporting person on actions taken or envisaged to be taken in follow-up within 3 months.
The provision of further feedback to the reporting person at 3 month intervals, on request.
A statement of policy as regards the conditions, if any, under which anonymous reports will be followed-up.
Provision of information on how to report externally to a prescribed person or the Protected Disclosures Commissioner.
Failure to comply with the requirement to establish, maintain and operate internal reporting channels and procedures is an offence.
Where an offence has been committed by a body corporate and is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of a person, being a director, manager, secretary or other officer of the body corporate, or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, that person as well as the body corporate commits an offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished as if he or she committed the first-mentioned offence.
Summary proceedings for such offences may be brought and prosecuted by the Workplace Relations Commission.
Further information on the measures introduced may be found at www.gov.ie/protected-disclosures