New Whistleblowing Laws in Ireland 2022
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Despite the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 being one of the strongest whistleblower pieces of legislation in Europe, it is to be strengthened further to give effect to the EU Whistleblowing Directive.
The Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2022 reached Committee Stage in Seanad Éireann on 31st May and will extend the protections afforded by the 2014 act in several key aspects:
- The amended Act will place an obligation on all public sector organisations and all private sector employers with 50* or more employees to establish and maintain internal reporting channels and procedures for employees to make protected disclosures. Those channels and procedures will be subject to WRC inspections;
- The Bill broadens the definition of ‘worker’ – i.e. the person who can make a protected disclosure to include almost everyone associated with an employer, including volunteers, shareholders and job applicants;
- A designated person in every organisation must follow a strict timeline for acknowledging, providing feedback and dealing with complaints;
- The Bill broadens the definition of a relevant wrongdoing, reverses the burden of proof in alleged penalisation claims, and widens the scope for employees to seek interim relief to forms of penalisation other than dismissal; and
- There will now be criminal penalties for penalisation in certain cases, including breaching the duty of confidentiality as regards the identity of a reporting person.
Make no mistake – this is one of the most important and powerful pieces of employment legislation in the history of the State.
* NOTE: The amended laws will initially apply this spring to all public sector organisations and to all private sector organisations with 250 or more employees. Private sector organisations with 50 or more will need to comply from 17th December 2023, although the Bill allows the Minister to reduce the threshold below 50 for certain classes of employer. In addition, there is no threshold for entities in the area of financial services, products and markets and prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, transport safety, and protection of the environment.
Key questions under the new legislation:
Q. In what way will existing whistleblowing policies have to change?
Q. Who (if anyone) is not covered by the law?
Q. In addition to almost EVERY health and safety complaint (save those that impact ‘exclusively’ on the individual), what else might constitute a protected disclosure, rather than your common or garden grievance? Getting it wrong could find you facing massive compensation claims and even a criminal conviction.
Q. How do you protect the whistleblower(s) and provide a (constitutional) right to a fair hearing for the alleged wrong-doer(s)?
Q. All employers covered by the new legislation must appoint a designated person who will receive and handle complaints – what is required in this pivotal role?
Q. How can employers and managers best protect themselves against allegations of penalisation that might lead to criminal conviction?
Why is this event important for YOU?
The amendments allow the WRC or Labour Court to award compensation of up to €15,000 for individuals such as job applicants who acquire information of wrong-doing during the recruitment process. That is, of course, in addition to existing penalties of up to 5x the annual salary for breaching the rights of employees.
The Bill proposes that interim relief can be obtained before the Circuit Court in all cases where a worker alleges penalisation, not just in circumstances where the worker has been dismissed e.g. to stop transfers, warnings and other sanctions below dismissal.
At present, the burden of proof in cases of penalisation under the 2014 Act rests with the person alleging wrongdoing. The new Act will reverse this burden of proof, meaning that penalisation would be presumed to have occurred because of or in retaliation for having made a protected disclosure, unless the employer could prove the act or omission was on duly justified grounds.
All employers need to be briefed fully on the amendments to avoid expensive claims and to deal with potential PR disasters.
After attending you will:
- Have received expert advice and practical guidance.
- Have received detailed notes and checklists for future reference.
- Understand the law by applying it to practical scenarios.
- Understand lessons from case law and what employers must do to combat risk.
- Have a detailed understanding of the amendments, the key areas of difficulty and developments to watch out for.
- Be able to advise your organisation on the best way forward to prepare to meet your requirements under the amended legislation.
- Know what must be included in your organisation’s whistleblowing procedure or be able to adapt your organisation’s current whistleblowing procedure (if you have one) to meet your new obligations.
Course overview/outline programme
This event is split into two parts:
Day One (22 June) considers:
- Understanding Statutory Requirements (Part 1): About the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 and the New Requirements
- Understanding Statutory Requirements (Part 2): Creating a Supportive Culture for Whistleblowers – What this means for employers and their procedures
- Understanding Statutory Requirements (Part 3): The Whistleblower is Always Right (Unless They’re Wrong) - reversal of the burden of proof in cases concerning penalisation.
Day Two (23 June) focusses on reinforcing the learning from day one via application of practical scenarios and checklists for the audience to analyse and discuss:
- Practical Examples (1): Defining a Protected Disclosure – which of these scenarios requires a statutory response? How to tell, what to do and how to protect your organisation.
- Practical Examples (2): Reporting Channel and Procedures – Recording disclosures and setting up investigations, providing feedback
- Practical Examples (3): Round-Up, Top Tips, Standard Procedures and What to Do Next
Who is it for?
This event is a must-attend for:
- Anyone with responsibility for auditing or compliance issues and particularly for anyone who may be a designated person responsible for handling whistleblowing complaints in the workplace;
- HR professionals in all private and public sector organisations who may need to advise on or investigate employee complaints or allegations;
- Anyone else with responsibility for employment policies, risk assessment and governance; and
- Any solicitors, in-house lawyers or other representatives, who must advise on the law.
When & Where?
This event will take place online over between 9.30am and 1.00pm on both the 22 & 23 June on the NewRow platform.
Standard Rate: €315
Save an additional €20 when you book and pay online.
Additional Training Resources: Whistleblowing Awareness eLearning Training Course
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 is one of the strongest pieces of whistleblowing legislation in Europe. It is to be strengthened further to give effect to the EU Whistleblowing Directive. The Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2021 was published on 9th February 2022 and will extend whistleblowing laws to private sector employers, job applicants and volunteers, and reverse the burden of proof in penalisation claims. Employers must create and maintain internal reporting channels that will be subject to inspection by the WRC.
This newly updated course is designed to ensure your employees have not only an understanding of the importance of whistleblowing processes in the workplace but also the important protections that apply when they speak up against wrongdoing in the workplace.
Training all staff will help protect your organisation and maintain an open workplace, reduce the chances of breaking the law and avoid expensive claims and potential PR disasters.
Please complete your details in the section below to register your interest and we will be in touch with more details on the launch of this course or to discuss your training needs further, contact Debbie Wilson - email@example.com.
Register Interest: https://forms.gle/XXfKbaiGeL4dSpYV8
Day 1: Understanding the Law and Consequences of a Breach
Welcome and Introduction – Scott Alexander, Legal Island.
Meet today’s speakers – Emmet Whelan, Partner, ByrneWallace LLP and Dr Lauren Kierans BL, University of Maynooth.
Understanding Statutory Requirements (Part 1): About the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 and the New Requirements:
Lauren Kierans focusses on the main changes to the law on protected disclosures, such as…
Emmet Whelan discusses:
Followed by Q&A
Understanding Statutory Requirements (Part 2): Acknowledgement and Internal Reporting Procedures – What this means for employers and their procedures.
Emmet Whelan focusses on specific issues concerning possible protected disclosures within an organisation, such as…
Lauren Kierans looks at:
Followed by Q&A
Understanding Statutory Requirements (Part 3): What Happens When a Complaint Goes Outside Your Organisation - reversal of the burden of proof in cases concerning penalisation and other legal issues.
Going forward it will be assumed that any alleged penalisation will have occurred because of the making of a protected disclosure, unless the employer can prove otherwise i.e. provide an explanation not related to whistleblowing. But that is not the only important change when an internal complaint becomes litigation or external bodies become involved.
In our final session of day 1, Emmet and Lauren focus on external reporting processes and litigation issues, such as…
Followed by Q&A
Recap and Final Q&A
Close of Day 1
Day 2: Practical Applications and Problem-Solving
Welcome Back and Introduction to Day 2 – Rolanda Markey, Legal Island, introduces day 2, where we test your knowledge and understanding through applied scenarios – can you, for example, differentiate a whistleblowing complaint from an ‘ordinary’ grievance?
Meet today’s speakers: Dr Lauren Kierans BL, University of Maynooth, and Liam Ennis, Founder of The Debrief Group.
Lauren and Liam will discuss issues jointly throughout.
Practical Examples (1): Defining a Protected Disclosure – which of these scenarios requires a statutory response? How to tell, what to do and how to protect your organisation.
Baranya v Irish Meats Group Ltd  IESC 77 and the Amendment Act have confirmed that almost all health and safety complaints are now protected disclosure complaints. But exactly what else is protected and would you know a protected disclosure from a ‘normal’ grievance if you were approached by an employee unsure of the law?
We set out three scenarios for the audience to vote on and discuss:
Scenario 1: Under which procedure would you treat this complaint (to be set out at the event) and why?
C. it’s not a valid complaint, they’re just grumbling again
Scenario 2: We consider a separate complaint (to be set out at the event) – is it serious enough to be referred outside of your organisation? When might/must An Garda Síochána be involved? At what stage do you / should you involve external organisations and why? What should you do if the first you know of a whistleblowing claim comes via a prescribed person or the Protected Disclosures Office?
Scenario 3: You consider another complaint (to be set out at the event) to be malicious and/or frivolous. Which of the following actions (to be set out at the event) might/might not constitute penalisation and why?
Note: Discussion via polls and chat throughout
Practical Examples (2): Reporting Channel and Procedures – Recording disclosures and setting up investigations, providing feedback
Let’s take Scenario 4 – and look at some templates that can assist you. Assuming you have identified a complaint as a valid protected disclosure, it needs to be recorded and dealt with. We work through practical issues, such as:
Note: Discussion via polls and chat throughout
Practical Examples (3): Round-Up, Top Tips, Standard Procedures and What to Do Next
We provide attendees with a summary of key points, top tips or dos and don’ts, and some useful checklists to use in your organisation. Handouts include headings from a draft whistleblowing investigation report. Plus – your last chance to clarify any points with our panel of experts.
Note: Discussion via polls and chat throughout
· General background to Act
· The definition of “worker” - Who is protected and who is not protected by the amended Act?
· Changes made to the definition of a “protected disclosure” - What additional wrongdoings are included in the definition?
· How are interpersonal grievances to be dealt with? Does the proposed change deal with any concerns arising from the Supreme Court decision in Baranya?
· The definition of “penalisation” – What retaliation is now outlawed and how has this changed?
· Difference between confidentiality and anonymous disclosures
"The information provided was clear and concise. The Q&A part was useful as you received practical examples of the implementation/application of the policy."
Roisin Stewart, Director of Services, St. Bernard's Children's Services
"This was an excellent event of real relevance to me and my team."
Michael Downes, Head of Group Internal Audit, CIE
"I enjoyed the clarifications on the legislation and also the discussion through Q & A on live implementation issues related to the legislation."
Eithne O'Sullivan, Authorised Person Protected Disclosures, HSE
"Presentations were clear with the presenters identifying and addressing issues of concern from an early stage. The Case Study allowed a quick emersion into topic and the resultant issues."
Liam Walsh, Assistant Principal, The Department of Social Protection
"Very good training event. In addition to the very knowledgeable presenters who delivered the information in a very professional manner, the broad range of attendees and the questions raised allowed for a broader learning experience."
Nora O Farrell, Senior Executive Officer, Longford County Council
"Very informative event, and very well organised as usual! As I previously had very little knowledge of the Whistleblowing Process and Procedures, I found this seminar to be most informative. The speakers were experts in their field and very engaging in their delivery. I would recommend this seminar to others in the HR field. Another excellent seminar by Legal Island!"
Fionnuala Kilcoyne, Office & HR Manager, Digital Construction Technologies Group
"The content and delivery of this course was excellent."
Peter Kelly, Large Loss Recovery Specialist, AIG
Emmet Whelan Partner
Emmet Whelan is a Partner in the ByrneWallace LLP Employment team. With over ten years’ employment law experience, Emmet advises on all aspects of employment law and in particular specialises in contentious employment matters and employee benefits. Clients include senior executives and large public and private sector employers.
Lauren Kierans Barrister
Dr Lauren Kierans BL is a practising barrister and Lecturer in Law at Maynooth University where she lectures on whistleblowing law at undergraduate level, as well as a Professional Certificate.
She was awarded her PhD on the Irish Protected Disclosures Act 2014 in June 2019. She has published articles and book chapters on protected disclosures and co-authored the Annotated Statute on the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. She has also produced two country reports on protected disclosures and spoken on this topic at various conferences, CPD events, round-table panel discussions, and legislative briefings at both national and international level. Lauren was awarded the governmental project for the drafting of the protected disclosures procedures guidance for public bodies on behalf of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
Liam Ennis Founder & Director
The Debrief Group
Liam Ennis is a founder and director of The Debrief Group, an organisation focused on the delivery of professional, transparent investigations. Liam has over 30 years policing experience, investigating the most complex and serious crimes. His skills and expertise has been recognised and commended by National and International Law Enforcement Agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and An Garda Siochana. Liam understands the real difficulties and fears victims and whistleblowers face when speaking out against wrongdoing. He is passionate in ensuring those charges with investigating such wrongdoings have the necessary skills and processes in place to conduct impartial and professional investigations. He recognises the real difficulty faced by Organisations in dealing with this complex and difficult area of business. Liam developed the only recognised UK Whistleblowing Investigative Management training course. The course is an endorsed provision accredited by Training Qualifications UK.
Liam’s clients include, The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Transparency International Ireland and The Jamaican Major Organised Crime and Corruption Agency (MOCA).