IBEC Responds to Publication of Protected Disclosure in the Public Interest Bill 2012
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin TD, has published the Draft Heads of the Protected Disclosures in the Public Interest Bill 2012. The Bill purports to build on the existing whistleblowing legislation currently in place in particular sectors. Sectoral whistleblowing provisions currently exist in 16 Acts of the Oireachtas e.g. The Health Act 2007, the Employment Permits Act 2006, Protections For Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 among others.
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, in its current form, will apply to both public and private sectors. It provides for a ‘stepped’ disclosure process to make a ‘protected disclosure’. It also provides safeguards for workers against detriment with respect to any term or condition of his/her employment, immunity against civil liability and immunity against criminal liability in certain circumstances. The Bill provides workers with an avenue of redress if they suffer detriment as a consequence for having made a protected disclosure i.e. a claim to a Rights Commissioner and on appeal to the Labour Court.
While IBEC welcomes clarity and consistency in the protection of whistleblowers, the Bill raises many concerns and poses particular challenges for employers. For example; the Bill extends protections to ‘workers’ beyond the employment relationship which could include contractors, trainees, and agency staff. There are particular concerns with aspects of the ‘stepped’ disclosure channels which reflect an absence of a cumulative approach which could leave an employer exposed to a ‘protected disclosure’ without having first had the opportunity to address the substance of the disclosure. There is much to consider with this Bill given its broad application and the potential to add administrative and litigious burdens on employers. IBEC will raise these considerations with the Department and will update you as matters progress.