WHAT IS A PROTECTED DISCLOSURE?
A protected disclosure is a disclosure of relevant information made by a worker, which they became of aware of in a work- related context and which they reasonably believe tends to show a relevant wrongdoing. Making a protected disclosure is sometimes called whistleblowing or reporting wrongdoing in the workplace.
WHO CAN MAKE A PROTECTED DISCLOSURE?
The Protected Disclosures Act applies to all workers in Highfield Healthcare. The word “worker” is interpreted widely and includes individuals who are or were:
- Agency workers
- Board members
- Job applicants
WHO CAN I MAKE A PROTECTED DISCLOSURE TO?
Protected disclosures can be made directly to Highfield, to a prescribed person, to a Government Minister, to the Protected Disclosures Commissioner, to certain advisors and to other persons. Different conditions apply depending on who you make the report to and you should check that you satisfy the relevant conditions in the Protected Disclosures Act before you make your report.
HOW DO I MAKE THE PROTECTED DISCLOUSRE REPORT?
You may report the wrongdoing in writing, in person, by email or by telephone. In all cases, whether you decide to report to your employer, or a prescribed person, or to the Protected Disclosures Commissioner, you should:
- be clear and factual;
- provide the date of the alleged wrongdoing (if known) or the date the alleged wrongdoing commenced or was identified;
- state whether or not the wrongdoing is still on-going or is likely to take place;
- indicate whether the wrongdoing has already been disclosed and if so to whom, when and what action was taken;
- provide relevant information in respect of the relevant wrongdoing;
- avoid speculation, personal attacks and emotive language.
WHO CAN I MAKE A REPORT TO?
You can make a report of wrongdoing to:
We have a protected disclosure’s policy which is available on EpicCare. You can report a concern by email to: ProtectedDisclosures@highfieldhealthcare.ie.
A “prescribed person”
If you do not want to make a report to us, you can consider contacting a prescribed person. Prescribed persons are generally regulators in the areas that are subject of allegations. Please click here for a full list of “prescribed persons”.
The Office of the Protected Disclosures Commissioner
If, having considered the options available to you, you are not sure who to contact, you can make a report to the Protected Disclosures Commissioner by
IF I MAKE A PROTECTED DISCLOSURE WILL MY IDENTITY BE PROTECTED?
If you make a protected disclosure, the person who receives it is obliged to protect your identity from disclosure unless that person reasonably considers that disclosure may be needed for receipt, transmission or follow up on your report. There are some exceptions to this protection. For example, there may be circumstances where disclosure is required by law.
WILL I FACE LEGAL ACTION FOR MAKING A PROTECTED DISCLOSURE?
In general, legal action cannot be taken against a person for making a protected disclosure. However, this does not apply to defamation proceedings. If you make a protected disclosure and defamation proceedings are taken against you, you will be able to use the defence of “qualified privilege.”
Also if, when making a protected disclosure, you disclosure information which is prohibited or restricted and you are prosecuted for it, it is a defence to show that you reasonably believed that you were making a protected disclosure when you disclosed the information.
It is important to seek advice and guidance including legal advice before making a protected disclosure.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I AM BADLU TREATED BY MY EMPLOYER AS A RESULT OF MAKING A PROTECTED DISCLOSURE?
The Protected Disclosures Act makes it an offence to penalise, threaten penalisation, or cause or permit any other person to penalise or threaten penalisation against a person for making a protected disclosure. Penalisation is another word for mistreatment.
If you believe you may have been penalised, you should seek some guidance or advice on your options.
There are legal options available to you to address this issue. For example, you may be able to lodge a complaint of penalisation with the Workplace Relations Commission and/or you may be able to seek relief from the Circuit Court. Time limits apply to these types of relief so you should seek advice on your options as soon as possible.
HOW IS A PROTECTED DISCLOSURE DIFFERENT FROM A GREIVANCE OR A COMPLAINT?
A grievance can be a complaint by an employee to their employer. Sometimes a grievance is a protected disclosure but this is not always the case. A grievance that is exclusively personal to the employee is unlikely to be a protected disclosure.
It is important to get advice on your circumstances to help you assess whether your report is an exclusively personal grievance.
WHERE CAN I GET GUIDANCE ON MY OPTIONS IF I SEE WRONGDOING AT WORK?
‘Transparency International Ireland” operates a confidential helpline, and provides access to free legal advice on making protected disclosure through Transparency Legal Advice Centre. The Helpline can provide free referrals for professional counselling on request Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) and the Irish Refugee Council have launched of a joint project titled ‘Speak Up Safely – Support for Vulnerable Workers’. They aim to ensure that vulnerable workers, including asylum seekers and migrant workers, can speak up about unsafe working conditions with the benefit of guidance on their rights and access to free legal advice.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I BELIEVE MY CONCERN HAS NOT BEEN INVESTIGATED PROPERLY?
If you have made a report to your employer and you don’t believe that the report is being handled appropriately, you may wish to consider reporting to a prescribed person.
If you unsure who the prescribed person is for your report, you may be able to report to the Protected Disclosures Commissioner who will identify the appropriate person for your report. If you are employed in a public body, you may be able to report to the relevant Minister who will transmit the report to the Protected Disclosures Commissioner who will identify the appropriate person for your report.
If you feel that the prescribed person is not handling your report appropriately, you may wish to raise your concerns in writing with that person.
If you are still concerned or if you feel that you cannot raise your concerns, you may wish to consider reporting to a person beyond those mentioned in the Protected Disclosures Act. Under the Act, there are circumstances where you can report to an other person, e.g. a journalist. There are particular conditions for making this type of report and reporters should seek advice and guidance on their options before taking any action.
You may also wish to consult a legal advisor for advice on any other legal options available to you.
Last Updated: 15th August 2023.