Unions achieve whistleblowing breakthrough

New legislation to protect workplace whistleblowers – people who reveal fraudulent or other unlawful behaviour – has been strengthened with measures to prevent employers sacking staff who blow the whistle.

The Government’s decision to amend its own Protected Disclosures Bill with the new clause is a major boost to the trade union campaign for stronger whistleblower protections. The clause was a central plank of trade union submissions on the Bill, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has described the move as a “game changer.”

It means that, once the Bill becomes law, employers will be barred from dismissing an employee who blows the whistle in accordance with the law. Their union will be able to apply to the Circuit Court for an ‘interim relief order’ preventing dismissal. The court will be able to order the immediate reinstatement of the employee in their own job or a similar post with the same pay and conditions pending the final determination of an unfair dismissal case.

If the employer still refuses, the court will be able to order that the whistleblower is paid exactly as if they were at work pending the outcome of the case. ICTU legal and social affairs officer Esther Lynch said experience in other countries is that these kinds of provisions rarely need to be used because their existence causes employers to modify their behaviour.

IMPACT has been at the forefront of the ICTU campaign and its national secretary Matt Staunton is part of the union team working to strengthen the legislation. ICTU is now pressing for a code of practice to set out clear procedures for making protected disclosures.