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Protection for Whistleblowers

Find out more about the legal protections for whistleblowers

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in employment

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If you suspect someone is breaking the law in your workplace you may feel you have to report it to the authorities. This might be especially true if the wrongdoing is being carried out by someone in a position of power or influence. Reporting behaviour you think is illegal is known as whistleblowing and there are protections in place for people who do it. If you are punished or fired for raising a legitimate concern, you can be compensated whether or not wrongdoing was actually going on. Whistleblowing protections are quite new in Ireland, so it’s important to find out what your rights are in this area.

What protection is there for whistleblowers?

If you lose your job for reporting a suspicion, you can be awarded up to five years’ pay as compensation. Any other punishment you get for whistleblowing can be appealed to the Work Relations Commission and you can receive compensation. You can fill out the appropriate form here. You also cannot be sued for whistleblowing.

What kind of behaviour can I report?

There are many kinds of wrongdoing you can suspect and report under Whistleblowing laws. You have to have come across the suspicious information through your work and must honestly believe there is a real possibility of wrongdoing. Any of the following suspicions are eligible for whistleblowers protection:

  • A person or company is committing a crime
  • A person or company is not complying with legal obligations
  • A person or company is endangering people’s health and safety
  • A person or company is damaging the environment
  • Public money is being misused
  • A public body is acting in a way that is oppressive, discriminatory, grossly negligent, majorly deceptive or incompetent.

Who can I make a report to?

The simplest way to make a report on wrongdoing is to speak to your employer. So long as you have a genuine reasonable belief that something is wrong, you can’t legally be punished or sacked for bringing it up.

If you can’t speak to your employer, you can make a disclosure to a “prescribed body”. These are official groups listed here. Which one you report to will depend on which area of the economy you work in. Unlike when you speak to your employer, a disclosure to one of these bodies will only be protected under the law if what you suspect is actually true.

In some circumstances where you feel you can’t report to your employer nor a prescribed body, speaking to a journalist may be covered by the law. All of the following will have to be true:

  • The wrongdoing you suspect must turn out to be really happening
  • You must not be making the report for personal gain
  • You think the evidence will be destroyed if you report it to your employer
  • Either there is no appropriate prescribed body, you’ve already made a report to one and nothing has happened, or the wrongdoing is extremely serious.
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Published November 26th, 2016
Last updated July 6th, 2018
Tags rights employee rights work rights
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