On 12 October 2022 the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, signed the commencement order for the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022. The order sets 1 January 2023 as the date upon which the Act will commence in its entirety.
Upon commencement, private sector employers with 250 or more employees will be required to establish formal reporting channels for workers to report concerns about wrongdoing in the workplace. In addition, all public bodies will be required to overhaul their protected disclosures procedures to comply with the Act by the commencement date.
The new Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner will also commence operations on 1 January 2023. As provided under the Act, the Ombudsman, Mr Ger Deering, will be the first Protected Disclosures Commissioner.
Minister McGrath said:
“This Act substantially overhauls the legal framework for the protection of whistleblowers. It gives greater certainty to workers who report wrongdoing that the information they disclose will be properly followed-up on. It also strengthens the protections for workers who suffer penalisation for raising a concern about wrongdoing in the workplace.
"The Act imposes new requirements of public and private sector employers as regards the operation of formal whistleblowing channels. It also provides for the establishment of the new Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner.
"In signing the order today and setting 1 January as the commencement date of the legislation, I am giving employers notice so that they can make the necessary arrangements as regards compliance with the Act. It also gives the Protected Disclosures Commissioner sufficient time to get ready to be in a position to fulfil his obligations under the Act.”
The new legislation substantially amends the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and provides for a significant expansion of its personal scope to include protections for volunteers, shareholders, board members and job applicants for the first time.
The Act also requires that private sector organisations with 50 or more employees will be required to establish formal channels and procedures for their employees to make protected disclosures, as is currently the case in the public sector. Employers and prescribed persons will be required to acknowledge, follow-up and give feedback in respect of all reports received through these channels. A derogation is in place for employers with between 50 and 249 employees: they will not be required to establish reporting channels until 17 December 2023.
A new Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner will be established in the Office of the Ombudsman to support the operation of the new legislation on this same date. The Commissioner will direct protected disclosures to the most appropriate body when it is unclear which body is responsible. The Commissioner will also take on responsibility for transmitting all protected disclosures sent to Ministers of the government to the most appropriate authority for assessment and thorough follow up.