New Whistleblowing rules come into effect on 01 January 2023

December 06, 2022

Employers in Ireland have been regulated by the Protected Disclosures Act since 2014. The Act sets out how wrongdoing can be reported and how reporting persons are to be protected from penalisation. Deriving from the EU Whistleblowing Directive, amendments have been made to this legislation which will strengthen protection for whistle-blowers in the workplace. Michael McGrath (Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform)  recently confirmed that the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 will come into force on 1 January 2023. The amended legislation will oblige all private sector employers with 50 or more employees to establish and maintain formal channels and procedures for employees to make protected disclosures. In addition, all public bodies will be required to overhaul their protected disclosures procedures to comply with the Act by the commencement date.

Upon commencement, private sector employers with 250 or more employees will be required to establish formal reporting channels for workers to report concerns about wrongdoing in the workplace. In addition, all public bodies will be required to overhaul their protected disclosures procedures to comply with the Act by the commencement date. Employers with between 50 and 249 employees will not be required to establish reporting channels until 17 December 2023.

What does this mean for employers?

  • The scope of Act has been widened to include board members, shareholders, job applicants and volunteers.
  • Employers will be required to acknowledge, follow-up and give feedback in respect of all reports received through these channels.
  • Failure to establish channels may result in criminal penalties.
  • Penalisation of a reporting person is now a criminal offence.
  • The burden of proof has been reversed in favour of workers who take civil proceedings against their employer for penalisation.

Even though companies with less than 50 employees are exempt from the requirements set out in this Act, it would be good practice for such employers to implement similar mechanisms to deal with the reporting of any wrongdoings in the workplace. A well communicated whistleblowing policy, and internal reporting procedures will ensure employees feel comfortable in reporting any wrongdoings. By having such procedures in place, companies have an opportunity to identify and manage risk at an early stage, helping to avoid or limit financial and reputational damage.

Employers should start preparing for its implementation by updating existing whistleblowing policies and developing an internal reporting channel and procedures as required under the amended legislation. Further guidance and information are available from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, they have published useful summary guidance for employers which is availablehere. As always, you can contact our HR Executive Fiona Mulligan on fiona.mulligan@sfa or ring 01 6051557 if you have any questions on the above.