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What is the Whistleblower Policy and who does it affect?

What is the Whistleblower policy?

Whistleblower protection refers to the reporting of wrongdoing related to EU law, such as tax fraud, money laundering or offences related to public procurement, product and transport safety, environmental protection, public health and consumer and data protection. However, the EU encourages national legislators to extend this scope also in into their respective national laws.

The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 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 – they should not be treated unfairly or lose their job because they have made a protected disclosure.

 

Who is affected by the Directive?

Companies with more than 50 employees, public sector institutions, authorities as well as municipalities with 10,000 or more inhabitants are obliged to set up suitable internal reporting channels. Companies with 250 or more employees will be are expected to comply within two years of adoption, whereas companies with employees between 50 and 250 have another two years after transposition to comply.

Whistleblowers should be able to submit reports either in writing via an online system, a mailbox or by post and/or orally via a telephone hotline or answering machine system. Not only are employees who report wrongdoing are protected, but also job applicants, former employees, supporters of the whistleblower or journalists.

 

What changes have been made?

An amendment to the 2014 Protected Disclosures act has been published on the 9th of February 2022. The Protected Disclosures Bill 2021 aims to strengthen the previous act (2014) by adding more rules and regulations.

The role of this new policy is to better protect the identity and rights of employees. We have outlined the main points from the Bill here:

  • All public sector and private sector (with 50+ employees) must now create and maintain an internal reporting system with procedures in order for employees to make a protected disclosure. These will be subject to WRC inspections.
  • There must now be a designated person to acknowledge and record any complaints issued.
  • There will now be penalties if there is any wrongdoing on behalf of the organisation, such as unlawful dismissal or breaching of confidentiality.
  • Protection not only exists for employees who report their concerns, but also for job applicants, former employees, supporters of the whistleblower and journalists.
  • These persons are protected from dismissal, degradation and other forms of discrimination.
  • Protection applies only to reports of wrongdoing relating to EU law, such as tax fraud, money laundering or public procurement offences, product and road safety, environmental protection, public health and consumer and data protection.
  • The whistleblower can choose whether to report a concern internally within the company or directly to the competent supervisory authority. If nothing happens in response to such a report, or if the whistleblower has reason to believe that it is in the public interest, they can also go directly to the public. They are protected in both cases.

With these safeguards, the EU is sending a clear message to whistleblowers that they have nothing to fear while encouraging individuals to report on company infringements.

 

*Until the 17th of December 2023, this Bill will only apply to private businesses with 250+ employees and will reduce to the 50+ as discussed above following this date.

 

Further reading:

Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2022. This Bill will give effect to Directive (EU) 2019/1397 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law , which harmonises the rules for the protection of whistleblowers across the EU. A public consultation on the areas where Ireland has discretion as regards implementation of the Directive was carried out in June and July 2020 and has helped inform the drafting of the legislation. Government approved and published a General Scheme of a Bill to amend the Protected Disclosures Act in May 2021.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach published its Pre-Legislative Scrutiny Report on the General Scheme of the Bill in December 2021 and this has also fed into the development of the Bill, which was published on 9 February 2022. A Regulatory Impact Analysis has also been published with the Bill.

 

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What is the Whistleblower Policy and who does it affect? was last modified: May 9th, 2022 by Beatriz Araujo

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