The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (the “Act”) came into effect on 15 July 2014. The Act is a new concept in Ireand in that it provides a statutory framework for protecting ‘whistleblowers’, a term framed in the US where the law is well established. Under this framework, workers can raise concerns regarding potential wrongdoing in their workplace in the knowledge that they can avail of employment protections if they are penalised or suffer detriment for doing so.
The Act covers all workers. It provides for a stepped disclosure regime which encourages disclosures to be made internally to the employer in the first instance. However, other options are available where internal disclosure is inappropriate or impossible.
Employees who make these disclosures are protected from dismissal or any penalisation short of dismissal. Penalisation has a very broad definition under the Act and even includes the “threat of” penalisation. Employees who have been unfairly dismissed for having made protected disclosures can also claim interim relief by application to the Circuit Court.
Of particular significance is the fact that the legislation provides for awards of compensation of up five years’ remuneration for employees who have been penalised or dismissed for having made a protected disclosure. This is a significant increase on the maximum two year remuneration cap available for breaches of most other employment statutes.
The Act closely reflects international best practice on whistleblower protection with the OECD describing it as “the strongest whistleblower legislation in Europe”. It also draws on recent developments in legislative models adopted in other jurisdictions.
The text of the Act is available on the Irish Statute Book website.