Earlier this year, the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 was enacted in Ireland to protect whistleblowers across all sectors of the Irish economy. Transparency International Ireland has lobbied for whistleblower legislation in the country since 2007, and this new law has incorporated best practice from around the globe, similar to legislation in the U.K., New Zealand and South Africa.
Key provisions of the Act include:
- A prohibition on retaliation against employees, contractors, agency workers, and work experience students who report wrong doing;
- A broad range of reportable wrongdoings including criminal offences, legal breaches, health and safety threats, public fund mishandling, or any attempt to conceal information regarding wrongdoing;
- A disclosure system that encourages workers to report to employers as soon as they witness wrongdoing.
While the Act is big step in the right direction for protecting whistleblowers in Ireland, the onus is now on organisations to make the cultural changes necessary to comply with the law.
What Ireland’s Business Community Needs to do to Comply with the Protected Disclosures Act 2014
Four key considerations for organisations just starting to build a whistleblower protection program to comply with the Act:
- Build a strong organisational culture: An organisational culture that actively and consistently encourages whistleblowing, which naturally includes anti-retaliation efforts, makes business sense. Your employees are the eyes and ears of your organisation—they are in the best position to see what is actually happening on the ground, making it much more likely that you will be able to fix little issues before they become a full-blown scandal. Culture change doesn’t happen in a day. Rather it’s something that your organisation must grow and nurture.
- Ensure that you have a robust compliance programme. A robust compliance programme starts with giving your employees, contractors and other parties means to report—whether through an anonymous whistleblower hotline, online report form, or manager open door policy.
- Provide all employees with the tools they need to speak up. All organisations should have a whistleblower hotline service, to augment reporting to managers, human resources, the compliance office or legal. Organisations need to be able to capture reports and ensure consistent incident resolution, which is easily done through incident management software.
- Increase awareness of whistleblowing tools and protections: All whistleblowing policies and procedures should be updated to reflect new laws (such as the Protected Disclosures Act) and distributed widely. As importantly, employees must be periodically trained on their duty to report misconduct, and managers need to know exactly how to handle complaints properly and prevent retaliation.