THE GOVERNMENT today published the Draft Heads of the Protected Disclosure in the Public Interest Bill 2012.
The Bill will ‘ensure the protection of workers in all sectors of the economy’ against reprisals in circumstances that they make a disclosure of information relating to wrongdoing which comes to their attention in the workplace.
It will ‘provide for a stepped disclosure regime’ in which a worker can make a protected disclosure and will ‘safeguard a worker who has made a protected disclosure from being subject to occupational detriment also providing immunity against civil liability and criminal liability in certain circumstances’.
If, however, a worker does end up suffering ‘detriment’ as a result of making a ‘protected disclosure’, the Bill will ‘make available certain significant remedies providing redress’.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin said: ‘This Government is committed to a significant political reform agenda.
‘A key part of this as set out in the programme for Government is our commitment to legislate to protect Whistleblowers who speak out against wrongdoing, or cover-ups, whether in public or the private sector.
‘This could encompass, for example, criminal misconduct, corruption, the breach of a legal obligation, risk to health and safety, damage to the environment or gross mismanagement in the public service.
‘The Heads of Bill published today will provide, for the first time for employees inIreland, a single overarching framework protecting whistleblowers in a uniform manner in all sectors of the economy.
‘This is a huge advancement from the previous piecemeal approach where the patchwork of protections resulted in a fragmented and confusing standards of protection. A key element of the proposed legislation is that it treats all parties equally and fairly within an integrated legal framework that is open and transparent.’
According to the general scheme of the Bill, ‘A protected disclosure means any disclosure of information regarding any conduct of an employer made by a worker which in the reasonable belief of the worker making the disclosure the information concerned shows or tends to show one or more of the following :
(a) A criminal offence has been, is being or is likely to be committed.
(b) A person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation to which he or she is subject.
(c) A miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur.
(d) The health and safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered.
(e) The environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged.
(f) An unlawful, corrupt, or irregular use of funds or resources of a public sector body has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur.
(g) An unlawful, corrupt or irregular use of public monies has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur.
(h) An act, omission, or course of conduct by a public official is oppressive, improperly discriminatory, or grossly negligent, or constitutes gross mismanagement.
(i) Information tending to show that any matter falling within any one of the preceding paragraphs, whether alone or in combination has been, is being or is likely to be deliberately concealed.
It also states that: ‘A disclosure is a protected disclosure under this Act whether the impropriety occurred before the commencement of this Act or occurs thereafter.
‘A disclosure is not a protected disclosure where the person making the disclosures does so knowing that the disclosure is false or misleading or where he/she made the disclosure recklessly without regard to whether it was false or misleading, frivolous or vexatious.’
General scheme of the Bill can be found here.