IBEC has raised its concerns regarding the Government’s general approach to whistle-blowing legislation –The Protected Disclosure in the Public Interest Bill 2012.
It is intended that this Bill will build on the sectoral approach to whistle-blower protection but the existing sectoral provisions will remain. To continue with the fragmented sectoral approach to this area of law not only leads to legislative disorganisation and uncertainty but raises the question of whether there is a need for a pan-sectoral approach in place of the specific sectoral provisions that exist and continue to be considered.
As previously highlighted, the Bill is intended to provide for the protection of workers who make disclosures of certain information in the public interest and to provide for related matters.
The Bill also presents concerns regarding the extension of the protections to ‘workers’ beyond the employment relationship which could include contractors and home workers, among others. The Bill provides, that in certain circumstances, a worker can make a disclosure which may be considered to be a ‘protected disclosure’ without their employer first having been made aware of the alleged impropriety or having had the opportunity to address the concern. Serious concerns for employers exist around the very broad approach to what is to be considered a ‘protected disclosure’ including that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation. The Bill could also expose employers to disclosures that would otherwise have been precluded by contractual confidentiality provisions. IBEC has called for the Bill to be amended to ensure that legitimate business interests of employers are protected.
IBEC has submitted that Government as a matter of course must fully asses the impact whistleblowing legislation may have on our international reputation and ensure that measures contained within the legislation support rather than undermine the growth of business.
IBEC has called for a Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) to be carried out prior to any further drafting of the Bill. This would explore the policy proposal for the proposed legislation and ascertain its appropriateness. A robust RIA should also examine the consolidation of legislation and simplification as a prerequisite to advancing with any further regulation.