Thursday, 22 November 2018

Questions (70)

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

70. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to include private companies in the protected disclosures legislation, including companies providing healthcare services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48655/18]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 provides robust statutory protections for workers against the real or potential penalisation by their employers where they have brought concerns about wrongdoing in the workplace to light.  The Act provides for a "stepped" dislcosure regime in which a number of distinct disclosure channels are available - internal, "regulatory" and external - which the worker can access to acquire important employment protections but which require different evidential thresholds.

The protections and disclosure channels under the Act are available to workers in both the private and public sectors, including to workers in companies providing healthcare services.  There are specific requirements in relation to the public sector, in terms of the requirement to establish procedures for dealing with disclosures from workers, and the requirement to publish an annual report in relation to protected disclosures.  While those requirements do not apply to the private sector, the Workplace Relations Commission has prepared a Code of Practice for employers, workers and their representatives in both the private and public sectors to assist in the practical implementation of the Act.  This Code of Practice has been given a statutory basis through the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice on Protected Disclosures Act 2014) (Declaration) Order 2015 (S.I. No. 464 of 2015).

As stated in the statutory Review of the Protected Disclosures Act completed in July 2018, consideration will be given to requiring the private sector to establish internal procedures in the context of the negotiation of the EU Directive on whistleblowing  (“Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law”) which was published in April 2018.  This Proposal, as it is currently worded, contains requirements for private sector entities above certain thresholds to establish internal channels and procedures for reporting and following up on protected disclosures.