Public interest disclosures (whistleblowing): key differences in Scotland and Northern Ireland
The Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016, which received Royal Assent on 22 April 2016, includes provisions that amend the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (SI 1996/1919) (NI 16). The amendments made by these provisions are in line with amendments made by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 and the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 to the whistleblowing provisions set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996 that apply in Great Britain. These amendments consist of:
- the inclusion of the right of a whistleblower not to be subjected to a detriment;
- for the disclosure to be protected, removal of the requirement for the disclosure to be made in good faith and introduction of a requirement that the disclosure be in the public interest; and
- a power for the Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning to make regulations requiring a prescribed person to produce an annual report on disclosures of information made to the person.
The provisions of the Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 effecting these amendments are not yet in force.
In March 2015, the UK Government published guidance for employers on whistleblowing, which includes a code of practice based on the law relating to public interest disclosures applying in England, Wales and Scotland. However, the then Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning (now part of the Department for the Economy and the Department for Communities) stated in 2015 that there is no need for a code of practice at this time.
There are no future developments specific to Scotland.
The law relating to public interest disclosures that applies in England and Wales extends to Scotland.