Whistleblowers’ law to ‘shine a light’

A new whistleblowers’ charter will shine a light into the darker corners of society, ministers have pledged.

The long-awaited proposed new law sets out a protection framework for people who come forward with concerns and information about their employers.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin insisted it would be a major weapon in combating corruption.

“Workers can now raise concerns regarding potential wrongdoing that has come to their attention in the workplace in the knowledge they can avail of significant employment and other protections if they are penalised by their employer or suffer any detriment for doing so.

“The publication of the Protected Disclosure Bill and its planned enactment in the autumn should instil all workers with confidence that should they ever need to take that decisive step and speak-up on concerns that they have about possible misconduct in the workplace, they will find that society values their actions as entirely legitimate, appropriate and in the public interest,” the minister said.

The proposed law will see safeguards applying to contractors, agency staff and trainees as well as full employees. The Unfair Dismissals Act 1997 will be extended to give cover to those whistleblowers who lose their jobs as a result of disclosure of information

Civil immunity from actions for damages and a qualified privilege under defamation law will also be given to whistleblowers.

And a new right of action in tort will apply where a whistleblower or a member of their family are “coerced, intimidated, harassed, discriminated against or otherwise adversely treated”.

However, special procedures will apply to disclosures relating to law and order, matters of defence, security and international relations.

Anti-corruption organisation Transparency International Ireland welcomed the Bill, adding that it was long overdue, but would boost ethical standards in Ireland.

Mr Howlin said the measure was a key provision of the Coalition’s pledges to bring a new attitude to political reform.

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