Wednesday, 12th May, 2021

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Michael McGrath TD, today published the General Scheme of the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill following approval by Government earlier this week.

The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the transposition of the EU Whistleblowing Directive into Irish law. Ireland is one of just 10 EU Member States to already have comprehensive legal protections for whistleblowers in the form of the Protected Disclosures Act. The Act will be amended to give effect to the Directive and to further enhance and strengthen the protections it provides.

This means that, volunteers, unpaid trainees, board members, shareholders and job applicants will all come within the scope of the Protected Disclosures Act 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, just like the public sector.

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.

Where a person takes a case to the WRC or the courts concerning penalisation for having made a protected disclosure, the burden of proof will be reversed – it will be assumed that the alleged act of penalisation occurred because the worker made a protected disclosure unless their employer can prove otherwise.

A Protected Disclosures Office will be established in the Office of the Ombudsman to support the operation of the Act in relation to reporting to prescribed persons and Government Ministers.

Speaking upon the occasion of the publication of the General Scheme, the Minister said:

Once enacted, this Bill will further strengthen and enhance the protections for whistleblowers in Ireland – a key commitment made in the Programme for Government – and I am very happy to be publishing these proposals after receiving Government approval.

Ireland already has protections in place for whistle blowers but this legislation goes further and will ensure that the disclosure will be followed up on in a timely manner. Those making a protected disclosure are entitled to receive feedback on what they clearly regard as serious matters contained in their disclosure and this Bill will ensure this takes place.

The measures will also give added confidence to the whistleblower that they will not be forced to prove that they were penalised for doing the right thing. The full Bill will now be drafted and I look forward to bringing it through the Oireachtas in due course. In the meantime I look forward to hearing the views of Oireachtas colleagues and key stakeholders on the General Scheme of the Bill being published today.

 

The General Scheme will now be referred to the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Taoiseach for Pre-Legislative Scrutiny.