Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 – Key Updates and Role of Designated Persons

Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 – Key Updates and Role of Designated Persons

The Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 (the 2022 Act) introduced significant changes to the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 (the 2014 Act).  It was signed into law on the 21st of July 2022 and commences from the 1st January 2023.  Some of the key amendments to the 2014 Act include:

New Developments:

  • Mandatory internal reporting channels and procedures 
  • WRC Inspections 
  • Volunteers and job applicants also protected
  • Strict timelines for dealing with claims
  • New Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner
  • Employers must prove they did not penalise a whistleblower
  • Interim relief available for complainants not dismissed
  • Criminal penalties for employers who penalise whistleblowers
  • 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
  • A broadening of 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 strict timelines for acknowledging, providing feedback and dealing with complaints;
  • Establishment of a new Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner - the Commissioner will direct protected disclosures to the most appropriate body when it is unclear which body is responsible and will also take on responsibility for transmitting all protected disclosures sent to Ministers of the Government to the most appropriate authority for assessment and thorough follow up.
  • Compensation of up to 5x an employee’s annual salary
  • A broadening of 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 nothreshold for entities in the area offinancial services, products and markets and prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, transport safety, and protection of the environment.

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 unsuccessfuljob 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 2014 Act 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. 

Who should attend this event? 

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. 

Price...

Standard Rate: €445
Small Company/Charity Rate: €395
Standard Early Bird Offer: €395 (deadline is 5pm on Thursday 16th March 2023)
Small Company/Charity Early Bird Offer: €345 (deadline is 5pm on Thursday 16th March 2023)

* Small Company/Charity Rates apply to organisations with less than 50 employees

Programme

Day 1

09.15

Welcome and Introduction

Legal Island

09.30

Key Updates to Protections from the 2014 Act

 

Dr Lauren Kierans, BL focusses in this first session on the scope of the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 and outlines who and what is protected.  For example:

 

  • 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?
  • The definition of “penalisation” – What retaliation is now outlawed and how has this changed?  When might ‘interim relief’ be awarded.
  • What is the difference between public and private sector and when must an employer have procedures in place?
  • New “support measures” for whistleblowers.

 

10.15

Q&A Session 1  

10.30

Refreshment Break

11.00

Internal Report Channels and the Role of the Designated Person

 

Dr Lauren Kierans BL continues to discuss the changes to the 2014 Act by focusing on reporting requirements and what the updates mean for the handling of protected disclosures within organisations.  For example,

 

  • Internal reporting channels -  private sector: thresholds and requirements
  • Internal reporting channels  - public sector: requirements
  • Role of designated persons/department in relation to:
    • Acknowledge of receipt of potential disclosures
    • Provision of feedback to reporting persons
    • Diligent follow up – assessment, investigation
    • Evidential requirements for establishing whether a relevant wrongdoing may have occurred
    • ‘Appropriate action’ to address the relevant wrongdoing
  • The new duty of confidentiality in respect of reports and the limited exceptions.
  • How are anonymous disclosures to be dealt with?  Is there an obligation to investigate and when might it be good practice to do so?
  • New record keeping obligations.  
  • Employer responsibilities in relation to communication of procedures for the making of protected disclosures

 

11.45

Q&A Session 2   

12.00

Comfort Break

12.10

External reporting channels and procedures

 

Dr Lauren Kierans BL concludes the day with an overview of changes to external reporting channels and procedures including,

 

  • An overview of the other key changes to reporting options including:
    • External reporting channels;
    • Reports to the Minister;
    • Reporting outside of the channels outlined in the Act.
    • The new Role of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner.
    • The new obligation to protect the identity of “persons concerned”.
    • Changes to how legal claims are dealt with.
    • Overview of criminal offences and penalties.

 

12.40

Final Q&A

13.00

Close of Day 1

 

 

Day 2

 

09.15

Welcome to Day 2

Legal Island

 

09.25

An Overview of Investigative Procedures

 

Dr Lauren Kierans BL, explained the role of the designated person in internal reporting requirements of protected disclosures.  Michelle Halloran, HR Consultant and experienced investigator outlines the key steps in any employment-related investigation and the key skills required that will be helpful to designated persons in conducting initial assessments of reports under Protected Disclosures procedures. 

 

10.10

Q&A and short comfort break

10.30

Questioning and Investigative Techniques

 

The designated person will be required to carry out an initial assessment into a disclosure which may require the seeking of further information from the reporting person.  In this session Michelle provides some guidance on how to gather further information including the types of questions to use to elicit required evidence.

 

11.00

Refreshment Break

11.30

Evaluating the Evidence

 

The designated person is required to establish if there is prima facie evidence that a relevant wrongdoing has occurred.  This may be easier said than done and, in this session, Michelle Halloran outlines how to assess and evaluate the evidence gained from the initial assessment of a protected disclosure report including whether this is indeed a protected disclosure or some other grievance.

 

12.00

Maintaining Confidentiality, Protecting Reporting Persons and Next Steps

 

Internal procedures for receiving protected disclosures must be designed and operated to ensure that confidentiality is maintained, and the identity of the reporting person is not disclosed.  In this final session Michelle Halloran provides some top tips for ensuring confidentiality throughout the entire process.  She will also provide pointers on how to ensure that reporting persons are protected against penalisation as a result of having made a disclosure.

 

Michelle concludes the session with a brief overview of consideration of next steps.

 

12.30

Final Q&A and Close of Event

Testimonials

Presenters


Early Bird Offer

Save up to €50

Event details

Duration

2 Half Days: Wed 19 & Thurs 20 April 2023

Date

19 April 2023

Location

Online - Hopin

Price

Standard Rate: €445
Small Company/Charity Rate: €395
Standard Early Bird Offer: €395 (deadline is 5pm on Thursday 16th March 2023)
Small Company/Charity Early Bird Offer: €345 (deadline is 5pm on Thursday 16th March 2023)