New laws to protect whistleblowers

The Government is to bring in tough new laws to stop whistleblowers who report wrongdoing in the workplace from being sacked.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he wants the additional reforms to protect workers, as the Government signed off on the legislation.

“It is important that persons who provide this information will not be dismissed from their employment or suffer penalisation in the workplace,” the minister said.

Under the new laws, part of the Criminal Justice Bill 2011, anyone who fails to give information to gardaí to prevent a crime or secure a prosecution could face up to five years in jail.

Mr Shatter said he plans to include strong legal protection for whistleblowers to prevent them being sacked or penalised for reporting wrongdoing.

He said the safeguards will underpin reforms in the Bill to deal specifically with complex white-collar crime.

“The protections that I intend to provide are substantial and will provide for criminal penalties where an employee penalises a whistleblower, as well as easily-accessible civil law remedies for employees,” Mr Shatter said.

“An employee will be able to seek redress from a Rights Commissioner and ultimately from the Labour Court.”

The Criminal Justice Bill 2011 is before the Dáil and aims to help gardaí speed up investigations into complex white-collar crime. Mr Shatter said he wants it enacted before the summer recess at the end of the month.

The issue of protection for whistleblowers was highlighted last month after a care worker at the now closed Rostrevor Nursing Home in south Dublin alleged physical and verbal abuse of elderly residents.

The reports prompted the Health Information and Quality Authority to demand the home be shut down but workers later claimed wages owed had not been paid. They were later given salaries.

A whistleblowers’ hotline for people concerned about wrongdoing and corruption was opened in May by the non-profit Transparency International Ireland.

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