Minister McGrath publishes Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill
Published on: 10 February 2022
Scope of the legislation extended
Greater clarity for whistleblowers and employers
New Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath TD, has today (Wednesday the 9th of February), published the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2022 which will enhance and strengthen the protections for whistleblowers in Ireland.
The Bill will transpose the EU Whistleblowing Directive and will extend the scope of the legislation in providing protections for volunteers, shareholders, board members and job applicants 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, as is currently the case in the public sector. This will be monitored and enforced by the Inspectorate of the Workplace Relations Commission.
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. This will give greater certainty to both employers and whistleblowers as to what will happen when a protected disclosure is made.
A new Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner will be established in the Office of the Ombudsman to support the operation of the new legislation. The Commissioner will direct protected disclosures to the most appropriate body when it is unclear which body is responsible. This will ensure that all protected disclosures will be dealt with appropriately. The Commissioner will also take on responsibility for transmitting all protected disclosures sent to Ministers of the Government to the most appropriate authority for assessment and thorough follow up.
Furthermore, in civil proceedings the burden of proof will be reversed so that it will fall to the employer to provide that any alleged act of penalisation did not occur because the person made a protected disclosure.
Announcing the publication of the Bill, the Minister said,
“I am delighted to be publishing this important piece of legislation. Ireland has had whitsleblower protection laws since 2014 and we have learned much since the Act came into operation. Ireland is one of a small number of EU countries to have had such a regime in place before the European Directive, and in many instances, the 2014 Act has afforded vital protection to whistleblowers.
"However, a number of high profile cases show that we can never be complacent about protecting those who are reporting wrongdoing by both public and private sector organisations. I believe it is important that we take this opportunity now to improve our legislative framework for dealing with Protected Disclosures.
"The implementation of the EU Directive and the amendments I am proposing in this Bill will further strengthen the protections for whistleblowers and maintain Ireland’s position as a leader in this area. I look forward now to progressing this legislation through the Oireachtas and working with colleagues there so we can get it enacted as soon as possible.”