There are legal protections against penalisation for reporting persons or “whistleblowers” in Ireland. The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 sets out how wrongdoing can be reported and how reporting persons are to be protected from penalisation. The Act was amended in 2022 and there are now new obligations for employers and prescribed persons.
What categories of persons are covered
These Acts apply to workers in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Reports can be made:
- Internally to the worker’s employer, or
- Externally to a prescribed person or to the Protected Disclosures Commissioner, or
- Publicly, as a last resort and subject to more stringent conditions.
A worker must make a report in the manner set out in the Protected Disclosures Act to gain the protections of the Act. Higher standards apply when the protected disclosure is made externally.
What are relevant wrongdoings that are covered
- Criminal offences
- Failure to comply with a legal obligation (other than your contract of employment)
- Miscarriage of justice
- Endangerment of health and safety
- Damage to the environment
- Unlawful or improper use of public funds
- Oppressive, discriminatory or negligent behaviour by a public body
- Breaches of EU law
- Concealing or destroying evidence of wrongdoing
Who are 'prescribed persons'
Prescribed persons are individuals prescribed by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to receive protected disclosures within an organisation. The list includes heads or senior officials of a range of bodies involved in the supervision or regulation of certain sectors of the economy or society. A list of prescribed persons can be found on gov.ie. The Council Chief Executive is the Council’s prescribed person.
What can be reported to a prescribed person
The matter reported must be within the area of responsibility of the Prescribed person and must be a relevant wrongdoing as specified by the Act. A reporting person may make a protected disclosure to a prescribed person if:
- the reporting person reasonably believes that the relevant wrongdoing falls within the description of matters in respect of which the prescribed person is prescribed and
- reasonably believes that the information disclosed, and any allegation contained in it, are substantially true.
What reporting channels are in place
The Council’s prescribed person has external reporting channels and procedures for receiving and handling reports made to them by workers in the areas they are responsible for supervising or regulating. Reports can be made in writing or orally. These external reporting channels are separate from, and in addition to, the internal reporting channels the Council has in place for its own workers.
The external reporting channels in place are email and dedicated phone number:
Telephone: 043 334 33 54
How reports are handled
Reports made are handled by a designated person appointed by the Chief Executive. The designated person is responsible for receiving and following up on disclosures and reports, maintaining communication with the reporting person and where necessary, requesting further information from and providing feedback to the reporting person. Longford County Council’s designated person is the Senior Officer for Corporate Services. The procedure for handling reports is as follows:
- Reports are acknowledged to reporting persons. An initial assessment is undertaken with the taking of appropriate action.
- Reports of serious relevant wrongdoing may be prioritised, if necessary and appropriate.
- Feedback is given to the reporting person and they are informed of the final outcome of any investigation triggered by the report.
Reports are handled in a confidential and secure manner by the Designated person. The reporting channel is designed and operated in a manner that ensures the completeness, integrity and confidentiality of the information concerned. This channel also prevents access to the information by persons other than designated person and any other authorised employees.
Withdrawal of a Protected Disclosure
Once a protected disclosure is made in accordance with the Act, it is not possible for a reporting person to withdraw the disclosure. Reporting persons are required under the Act to co-operate with a prescribed person, the Commissioner or a person to whom a report is made/transmitted to such extent as may reasonably and lawfully be required for the purposes of the Act.
Where co-operation is withdrawn or the reporting person seeks to withdraw a protected disclosure, public bodies and prescribed persons are still required to comply with the provisions of the Act, to the greatest extent possible.
Further advice and support
Transparency International Ireland for the provision of a free Speak-Up Helpline and Legal Advice Centre in the regard. Advice and support may also be available from workers’ trade unions as well as Citizens’ Advice.
Protected Disclosures Annual Reports
In accordance with Section 22 of the Protected Disclosures Act, Longford County Council must report on the number of protected disclosures made to the Council in the preceding year. In line with these requirements, take a look at Longford County Council Protected Disclosures Annual Reports.