Firms with more than 50 staff will have to set up channels for whistleblowers

Law also to protect right to ‘social identity’ in adoptions incorrectly or illegally registered

Companies with more than 50 workers will have to establish formal channels for whistleblowers to come forward, under new laws set to be approved by Cabinet on Tuesday.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath will seek approval to publish the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2021, which the Coalition hopes will be passed into law by the summer.

The Bill, to be considered by Cabinet when it meets at Dublin Castle on Tuesday morning, requires private sector organisations with 50 or more employees to establish formal channels and procedures for their employees to make protected disclosures, as is the case currently in the public sector.

It also reverses the "burden of proof" when a worker takes a case alleging penalisation for making a protected disclosure to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or to the courts. Under the Bill, the presumption will be that an alleged act of penalisation occurred because the worker made a protected disclosure, unless the employer can prove otherwise.

Protected disclosure

Protections will be expanded beyond traditional employment relationships to include volunteers, unpaid trainees, board members, shareholders, suppliers and job applicants. These categories of people will be able to take a case to the WRC if they feel they have been harmed because they made a protected disclosure.

The Bill will create new obligations for employers and others who receive protected disclosures, including a requirement to provide feedback to the reporting person on the actions taken within three months. They will also have to acknowledge receipt of the disclosure within seven days and follow up on the information it contains.

Elsewhere, a new right to a “social identity” for people whose adoptions were incorrectly or illegally registered is to be created, under plans going to Cabinet.

The approach is designed to rectify the current situation whereby a person incorrectly adopted does not have a legal right to be recognised by the name and identity they were raised under.

Digital strategy

They will also be able to claim inheritance rights to the estates of both their birth parents and their adoptive parents. The new succession rights will only apply to deaths which occur from when the legislation is enacted.

Meanwhile, the national digital strategy will also be approved by Cabinet today.

Under the plan which is being brought by the Department of Business and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, all populated areas will be covered by 5G no later than 2030. Sources have said that the plan will also commit to having 90 per cent of public services consumed online by the same date in 2030.

The plan will also have an emphasis on education and will commit to making sure at least 80 per cent of adults will have the most basic of digital literacy skills by the same date.

The Government will state that the digital world will become an increasing part of the fabric of everyday life and that preparations are needed for this. Ministers are due to discuss the rapid changes in the use of technology that have been brought about by the pandemic.

Sources said that there would be risks that need to be managed and that a memo would deal with plans to invest in cybersecurity, regarded as particularly important given last year’s cyberattack on the health service.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman will also seek Government approval to submit annual reports to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.