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Employers urged to shield staff who speak up about wrongdoing in the workplace

3 October 2017
Transparency International Ireland to work with employers in protecting workers who speak up
Dublin, 28 September 2017
Over 30,000 people working in Irish businesses and not-for-profit organisations are estimated to have suffered as a result of disclosing wrongdoing during their career, according to results from Transparency International (TI) Ireland’s Integrity at Work Survey 2016. The results compiled by Behaviour & Attitudes from over 800 Irish private-sector employees and 350 employers were presented today (28.09.17) at the inaugural Integrity at Work Conference.
Speaking at today’s conference, TI Ireland Chief Executive, John Devitt commented: ‘We have seen a 115 per cent increase in whistleblower calls to the Speak Up helpline since the enactment of the Protected Disclosures Act in July 2014. We have also seen an increase in employers looking for support in creating an environment where staff feel safe in speaking up.
While there is a growing awareness of the economic and societal benefits of encouraging whistleblowing, many workers continue to report that speaking up has been a difficult and life changing experience. The Integrity at Work programme was developed to promote supportive environments for anyone looking to report concerns of wrongdoing in the workplace’.
In response to the need for legal advice for these callers, TI Ireland launched the Transparency Legal Advice Centre in 2016. To date, the independent law centre has provided free legal advice valued at over €400,000 to clients reporting wrongdoing.  
Top-line results from the 2017 Speak Up report were also presented at the conference. The results were drawn from anonymised data collected from 327 people who contacted the TI Ireland Speak Up helpline for support between January 2015 and December 2016. The report reveals that the top three sectors reported by whistleblowers during this period were Health, Not-For-Profit and Education. 
The full results and analysis of TI Ireland’s Speak Up report will be published in the coming weeks.
Today’s Integrity at Work Conference is the first of its kind in Ireland and was designed to help employers understand what they need to do to help their staff speak up safely. Mr Devitt said: ‘The aim of today’s conference is to show how organisations can address wrongdoing at an early stage, before it leads to loss of reputation, stakeholder investment and public support. 
With the Government now placing a strong focus on white collar crime, it is imperative that employees and employers feel empowered and confident in dealing with concerns of fraud and malpractice in the workplace’.
Speaking ahead of opening today’s Conference, Minister for Justice and Equality, Charles Flanagan TD said: ‘It requires courage to speak up when we identify a potential wrongdoing and it is necessary to have supports and protections in place for those who do.  The work of bodies such as Transparency International Ireland is vital for all workers in supporting them in speaking up safely.’
European Ombudsman and keynote speaker at the conference, Emily O’Reilly commented: ‘To be a whistleblower, on one level, is to cast oneself outside of your tribe, be it your personal, community or work tribe. The very act risks ostracisation and worse.’ 
The conference is part of the Integrity at Work programme, a not for profit initiative developed by TI Ireland. Launched last year, Integrity at Work is the world’s first initiative aimed at bringing public, private and non-profit organisations together to create safer working environments for people to speak up about wrongdoing. It builds on the work of TI Ireland over the past 13 years in supporting and campaigning for better protection for whistleblowers. 
The initiative is currently seed-funded by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Department of Justice and Equality, membership contributions and charitable donations. TI Ireland will launch additional fundraising efforts over the coming months to expand the programme.   
Ends (See notes)
Notes to Editors:
About Integrity at Work
Integrity at Work (IAW) is a multi-stakeholder, not-for-profit initiative for organisations in the public, private and non-profit sectors.  IAW promotes supportive environments for anyone reporting concerns of wrongdoing in the workplace by committing employers to protect staff who speak up; sign-posting workers to support from TI Ireland and TLAC; and supporting organisations in responding effectively to concerns. The programme was officially launched by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD in 2016.
About Speak Up Helpline
The Speak Up helpline was established by TI Ireland in 2011 and offers information, referral, advice and advocacy support. The helpline can be contacted on Freephone 1800 844 866, Monday to Friday between 10am and 6pm.
About the Transparency Legal Advice Centre
The Transparency Legal Advice Centre (TLAC) was launched by TI Ireland in 2016 to meet increasing demand for free legal advice to anyone disclosing wrongdoing, particularly under the Protected Disclosures Act (PDA). TLAC is a registered charity and regulated by the Law Society of Ireland. It is the only independent law centre in Ireland that specialises in providing free legal advice on protected disclosures.
About Transparency International
Transparency International (TI) Ireland is the Irish chapter of the worldwide movement against corruption (defined as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain). It was founded in 2004 and is part of the only global organisation dedicated to stopping corruption worldwide, working to create a "level playing field" for citizens and business. Its vision is an Ireland that is open and fair – and where entrusted power is used in the interest of everyone. TI Ireland’s mission is to empower people with the support they need to promote integrity and stop corruption in all its forms.