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Whistleblowing and self-reporting
Are whistleblowers protected in your jurisdiction?
The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 provides protection for a whistleblower who is a worker when a disclosure of relevant information is made.
The term ‘worker’ is broadly defined and includes employees, contractors, self-employed individuals, agency workers and people on work experience.
‘Relevant information’ is information which a worker reasonably believes tends to show one or more relevant wrongdoings and which came to their attention in connection with their employment.
‘Relevant wrongdoings’ include:
- the commission of a criminal offence;
- failure to comply with a legal obligation;
- the occurrence of a miscarriage of justice;
- endangerment of health or safety of an individual;
- misuse of public funds;
- mismanagement of a public body; and
- the concealment or destruction of information tending to show any of the foregoing.
In order for the protections under the 2014 act to apply, the disclosure must be made through a specified disclosure channel, including disclosures made:
- to a worker’s employer;
- to a person prescribed by the minister for public expenditure and reform;
- to a relevant government minister;
- to a legal adviser; or
- to a third party (in certain circumstances).
The 2014 act requires that the recipient of the disclosure protect the whistleblower’s identity insofar as possible. A whistleblower is also protected from penalisation or dismissal by their employer for making a protected disclosure. Further, a whistleblower will be immune from criminal liability in respect of any offence prohibiting or restricting the disclosure of information if, at the time of making the disclosure, they reasonably believed that it was a protected disclosure under the 2014 act.
Is it common for leniency to be shown to organisations that self-report and/or cooperate with authorities? If so, what process must be followed?
Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 makes it an offence to withhold information from the Irish police force which one knows or believes might be of material assistance in preventing the commission by any other person of a relevant offence or in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any other person for a relevant offence. The relevant offences for the purposes of the 2011 act are specified in Schedule 1 to the 2011 act (as amended) and include offences under the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act 2018. This therefore imposes a mandatory obligation on companies and individuals to report suspected instances of bribery and corruption. However, there is no specific statutory provision in Ireland that provides for leniency in circumstances where a company self-reports a corruption or bribery offence.