The new Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022 came into force on 1 January 2023. It has made substantial changes to protected disclosures law in Ireland, and employers should familiarise themselves with these changes to comply with their increased obligations.
Who does it affect?
- Public sector bodies;
- Private sector organisations with 250 or more employees; and
- All organisations (of any size) subject to EU laws and regulations in financial services, prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, transport safety, and safety of offshore gas and oil operations.
From 17 December 2023, this requirement will apply to all organisations with 50 or more employees.
What do you need to do?
- Establish internal channels and procedures which ensure confidentiality for the internal reporting of suspected wrongdoings;
- Acknowledge all reports of suspected wrongdoings within seven days; and
- “Diligently follow up” on those reports within three months.
What does “Diligently follow up” mean?
- Conduct an initial assessment to establish if there is prima facie evidence of a wrongdoing;
- If there is no prima facie evidence, then either close the case or refer to another procedure, e.g. grievance and notify the reporting person in writing of same;
- If there is prima facie evidence, address the breach reported with actions such as an internal enquiry, an investigation, prosecution, or an action for recovery of funds; and
- If the case is not closed within three months, provide feedback to the reporting person in writing every three months until it is closed.
Who can make a disclosure or whistle-blow?
The scope has been considerably broadened beyond employees and now extends to the below (where the association with the organisation can either be past or present):
- Agency worker
- Person undergoing work experience or training
- Civil servant
- Member of an Garda Síochána
- Member of the Defence Forces or Reserve Defence Forces
- Legal persons, e.g. companies, suppliers
- Self-employed, freelance workers, contractors, subcontractors
- Those working under the supervision and direction of contractors, subcontractors and suppliers
- Volunteers and unpaid interns and trainees
- Those not yet recruited but where information on a breach has been acquired during the recruitment process or other pre-contractual negotiation
- Persons belonging to the administrative, management or supervisory body of an undertaking, including non-executive members
Benefits of the new legislation:
Although this new legislation will impose new requirements, it should also create an environment within all entities that embrace it, resulting in less fraud, higher staff retention and, therefore, more profits.
Did you know:
- More than 46% of fraud and corruption is discovered by whistleblowers;
- Entities with effective whistleblowing systems suffer 50% smaller losses;
- Having well-communicated and supported whistleblowing systems reinforces ethical compliance culture; and
- Providing a channel for employees and stakeholders to voice concerns can be an early warning system which avoids crisis, reduces risk, limits reputational damage and can increase profits.
What can Mazars do to help?
We can provide you with the support you need to ensure compliance with this new legislation and provide you and your stakeholders with the comfort that not only are you compliant but that you have an effective and confidential system which supports employees and other stakeholders to report matters which could negatively impact on your organisation.
- We can conduct a Gap Analysis to establish your current position versus the legislative requirements;
- We can provide Protected Disclosure policies and procedures which not only comply with the legislation but consider your specific needs;
- We can provide whistleblowing awareness training and conduct whistleblowing-supportive cultural reviews. This should ensure that not only are all staff aware of the systems that exist but that a culture exists within the entity that supports and encourages whistleblowing. One of the biggest obstacles to effective whistleblowing is the fear that nothing will be done, which can be mitigated by effectively communicating the systems in place and the organisation’s support for it;
- We can recommend an online whistleblowing platform which will allow employees and stakeholders to make a disclosure in a confidential manner giving you the reassurance that all disclosures will be dealt with in a timely manner in line with the legislation; and
- We can conduct any investigations considered necessary.
To find out more about how the new legislation will impact your organisation and to learn more about the support Mazars can provide, contact Maureen Kelly, Director, Governance, Risk & Internal Controls.