IMPACT seeks strengthened whistleblower bill

Friday 25th May 2012

IMPACT has asked the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform to recommend stronger provisions in a ‘whistleblowers bill,’ which aims to protect staff who expose financial and other wrongdoing in the workplace.

In evidence to the committee earlier this week, IMPACT national secretary Matt Staunton said the bill in its current form would fall far short of legal standards in the “international premier league of whistleblower protection.” He said existing legislation in Britain, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and the USA was much stronger that the Irish bill, which is currently going through the Oireachtas.

Matt told TDs and senators that current proposals would still allow employers to sack staff for exposing workplace wrongdoing, and entrench long delays for workers seeking justice for victimisation. He also said more work was needed on the burden of proof in such situations.

Matt, who was part of an ICTU delegation giving evidence to the committee, also repeated the union’s call for a Labour Relations Commission code of practice on whistleblowing, which should include procedures to deal with disputes between staff and their employers.

He said that the chair of the committee had agreed to look at the UK model and indicated that a code of practice would feature in the Irish approach.

ICTU has intensified its calls for strong legal protections for whistleblowers since the Criminal Justice Act was passed last year. The Act introduced the threat of large fines and prison sentences for employees who fail to report financial malpractice in the workplace, but contained very weak protection for whistleblowers.