Monday 23 September 2019

Shane Phelan: 'Complaints surged after change in law'

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Protected Disclosures Act has been a game changer in terms of bringing serious wrongdoing to the fore since it was introduced in 2014.

Official statistics have shown a steady rise in disclosures since then.

In public bodies the number of protected disclosures jumped from just 16 in 2014 to 134 the following year and 220 in 2016. A key reason for this is the protections provided to employees and the penalties employers face if they act in retribution.

For example, an employee dismissed for making a protected disclosure can receive up to five years' pay in compensation instead of the usual two.

The whistleblower's identity can only be disclosed by the employer in certain circumstances.

The definition of wrongdoing can range from criminal offences to oppressive or discriminatory acts. However, not all correspondence described as a "protected disclosure" is treated as such.

For example, last year the Department of Justice received eight pieces of correspondence purporting to be protected disclosures.

But six were deemed not to be protected disclosures.

In the case of recent concerns raised with Our Lady's Hospice and Care Services, it has taken the view that these do not amount to a protected disclosure. This is because the legislation states the disclosure must be made by a worker to his or her employer or to an external regulator listed in the hospice's protected disclosures policy.

In the case of the hospice, the concerns were outlined by a third party and the workers involved remained anonymous.

The hospice took the view these matters would be more appropriately dealt with under grievance procedures, which are generally used where the matter is specific to the worker, such as working procedures or conditions.

Irish Independent

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