What an employee needs to know
What is a protected disclosure?
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 at section 5 defines a “protected disclosure” as a disclosure of relevant information. It then goes on to define “relevant information” :
(2) For the purposes of this Act information is “relevant information” if—
(a) in the reasonable belief of the worker, it tends to show one or more relevant wrongdoings, and
(b) it came to the attention of the worker in connection with the worker’s employment.
(3) The following matters are relevant wrongdoings for the purposes of this Act—
(a) that an offence has been, is being or is likely to be committed,
(b) that a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation, other than one arising under the worker’s contract of employment or other contract whereby the worker undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services,
(c) that a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur,
(d) that the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered,
(e) that the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged,
(f) that an unlawful or otherwise improper use of funds or resources of a public body, or of other public money, has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur,
(g) that an act or omission by or on behalf of a public body is oppressive, discriminatory or grossly negligent or constitutes gross mismanagement, or
(h) that information tending to show any matter falling within any of the preceding paragraphs has been, is being or is likely to be concealed or destroyed.
This is just a summary of section 5. You should read the full act, and take appropriate professional advice before making any decision based on this information.
Who is covered?
A worker is covered. The act’s definition of a worker to include an employee or former employee, a trainee, a contractor under a contract for services,contractor, agency worker, a person on work experience, and a member of the Gardai. A volunteer is not specifically mentioned in the legislation, however, guidelines will cover disclosures by a volunteer.
How do I report a concern?
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 sets outr a stepped disclosure system. The concerned employee is encouraged to make the disclosure to the employer as the first point of contact. It then sets out alternative options where a disclosure to an employer would be difficult or not appropriate.
a. Disclosure to an employer or other responsible person.
b. Disclosure to a prescribed person.
The prescribed persons are mainly various regulatory bodies and organisations with a responsibility to investigate disclosures of wrongdoings.
c. Disclosure to a Government Minister.
An employeee in a public body can make a disclosure to the Government Minister with responsibility for that department.
d. Legal advisor.
Any disclosure made as part of the process of obtaining legal advice fronm a solicitor,barrister,trade union, or an official of an excepted body is protected.
e. Other disclosures.
This is a more difficult type of disclosure to make. In certain circumstances, the disclosure of information to a journalist or other such media professional can be protected. You should seek legal advice before pursuing this, or any other option.
How am I protected?
The act affords a number of protections.
Protection from being dismissed. Compensation of up to five years remuneration where an employee is dismissed as a result of making a protected disclosure.
No penalisation. More on penalisation/victimisation here
Immunity from damages in civil law and qualified privlige under defamation legislation.
The ability to sue if a whistleblower or their family member experiences coercion, intimidation, harassment or discrimination at the hands of a third party
Identity protection in most cases.
A protected disclosure is not a criminal offense.
What about Trade Secrets ?
If the disclosure which you wish to make involves a trade secret then you must show that the protection of the public good was your motivation for making the disclosure. Otherwise it is not a protected disclosure.
For more on protection of trade secrets and whistle blowing see
What should I do next?
If you believe that you have been unfairly dismissed or penalised in any way as a result of making a protected disclosure, please contact us for advice on what steps to take next.
Spread the knowledge. If you found this article useful, please like and share using any of the social buttons below.
Image courtesy Gordon Wrigley Some modification (banner)