The Government has published updated guidance for public bodies on legislation aimed at strengthening protection for whistleblowers.
The guidance, which follows on from interim guidelines published last year, aims to help organisations to understand their obligations under the law, and gives advice on best practice in setting up and operating reporting channels.
The Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 updated 2014 legislation that provided statutory protections against penalisation of workers who raised concerns about wrongdoing in the workplace.
The guidance published today (20 November) includes template policies for public bodies to adapt and use in developing their internal reporting procedures, and for prescribed persons to use in developing their external reporting procedures.
Ethos and culture
Paschal Donohoe (Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform) warned, however, that formal standards could form only a part of the overall picture.
“More than anything, it is the ethos and culture of an organisation that determines whether the concerns of workers are listened to and acted upon,” he stated.
While the new guidelines are aimed at the public sector, the minister said that much of the content was also applicable to the private sector.
At the moment, all private-sector companies with 250 or more employees must also have internal reporting channels. With effect from 17 December, however, this threshold will fall to 50 employees.
Minister Donohoe has also signed an order updating the list of prescribed persons that workers can contact to make external reports of wrongdoing in their sector. The new list is to reflect changes in the regulatory environment, such as Coimisiún na Meán replacing the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
Prescribed persons are generally the heads of organisations with regulatory powers over a particular sector, who can receive and take action on disclosures from workers.
Under the order, the Chief Executive Officer of the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority (AHBRA) has been added to the list, while Pobal and the Press Ombudsman have been removed.