The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 which came into force in July 2014 put employers on notice that employees would be afforded legal protection if they disclosed concerns regarding their employer (e.g. in relation to perceived health and safety breaches). The risk for employers was (and is) that in some contexts, employees who have reason to believe their disclosure has led to their dismissal could then bring an action for unfair dismissal, bringing with it financial and reputational impact for the employer.
Lavelle Partners are regularly asked by employers to assist in matters which could become contentious or where there has already been a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission of a possible breach of the law in relation to whistle-blowers protection.
What is the Protected Disclosures Act 2014?
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 states that if an employee discloses information, including perceived wrong-doings by their employer, they are afforded legal protection. Such wrong-doings may include:
- an offence has been, is being or is likely to be committed,
- a person has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with any legal obligation,
- a miscarriage of justice has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur,
- the health or safety of any individual has been, is being or is likely to be endangered,
- the environment has been, is being or is likely to be damaged,
- an unlawful or otherwise improper use of funds or resources of a public body, or of other public money, has occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur,
- an act or omission by or on behalf of a public body is oppressive, discriminatory or grossly negligent or constitutes gross mismanagement, or
- information tending for any of the above matters has been, is being or is likely to be concealed or destroyed.
What are the ramifications of a successful claim under the Act for the employer?
Under the Act, an employee does not require one year’s service to bring a claim for unfair dismissal, and the maximum compensation available is five years, rather than two (which is the cap under other unfair dismissal claims).
In addition, employees seeking to claim unfair dismissal in relation to whistleblowing can apply to the Circuit Court to continue their employment (in the form of an interim relief order) without any reduction in pay or benefits.
To be successful in bringing a claim, an employee must show that they have “substantial grounds” for linking the dismissal with the protected disclosure made.
Given the relatively low threshold for the burden of proof and the potentially high costs associated with a successful claim, it is easy to see why employers should be cautious in relation to such matters. If you are concerned that you may be subject to a claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds of a protected disclosure, Lavelle Partners can assist you. Our team of employment law Solicitors are well acquainted with the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, and based on the facts of the case, will recommend a course of action to protect your financial, commercial and reputation interests.
How Lavelle Partners can assist you in relation to whistleblowing matters
- For over 30 years, our team of employment law Solicitors, headed by Senior Partner, Marc Fitzgibbon, have been supporting employers in relation to whistle-blower matters. Over that time, we have developed an enviable reputation for providing legal excellence and empathetic support for our valued clients.
- Marc is a former member of the Law Society of Ireland’s Employment & Equality Law Committee and the European Employment Lawyers Association.
- We understand the need to protect your business or organisation from the threat of a claim or reputational damage.
- Our Solicitors will work alongside your in-house or external HR team, ensuring that any claim or potential claim for unfair dismissal is handled efficiently and with the minimum of demands on your resources.
- In addition, you can be assured your case will be handled with the utmost of professionalism and confidentiality.
Our partnership with Talbot Pierce
Lavelle Partners work with Talbot Pierce to provide a seamless service in respect of Human Resource Management. Talbot Pierce are a team of specialist HR professionals who work with us on a range of matters including advice on and delivery of conflict/dispute resolution solutions, best-practice HR strategies, policies and procedures.
For further information on workplace whistleblowing for employers in Ireland, please contact Lavelle Partners in confidence on (01) 644 5800*.
*Please note that fees apply to all consultations and advice cannot be given free of charge.