The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 offers significant and real protection to employees who wish to raise concerns about possible wrongdoing in the workplace. The Act, which came into effect on 15 July 2014, is often called the whistle-blower legislation. It provides for redress for employees who are dismissed or otherwise penalised for having reported possible wrongdoing in the workplace.
Under the Act, you make a protected disclosure if you are a worker and you disclose relevant information in a particular way. Information is relevant if it came to your attention in connection with your work and you reasonably believe that it tends to show wrongdoing.
Wrongdoing is widely defined in the Act and includes the commission of criminal offences, failure to comply with legal obligations, endangering the health and safety of individuals, damaging the environment, miscarriage of justice, misuse of public funds, and oppressive, discriminatory, grossly negligent or grossly mismanaged acts or omissions by a public body. The definition also includes the concealment or destruction of information about any of the above wrongdoing.
If you are dismissed from your employment because you made a protected disclosure, that dismissal is regarded as unfair. You may make a claim for unfair dismissal and if your claim succeeds, you may be awarded compensation of up to 5 years pay.
If you make a protected disclosure, your employer is prohibited from penalising or threatening to penalise you or causing or permitting anyone else to do so. If you are penalised or threatened, you may make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission and we can assist you with any such claim.
The Act provides for immunity from civil actions for damages – in effect, you cannot be successfully sued for making a protected disclosure. You may sue a person who causes detriment to you because you made a protected disclosure. However, you may not do this and also look for redress under the unfair dismissals legislation or make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission. If you are charged with unlawfully disclosing information, it is a defence that you were making what you reasonably thought to be a protected disclosure.