Friday, 26 April 2019 08:28

New EU laws to provide greater protection for whistleblowers

On the 16th April 2019, the European Parliament and the Member States approved new rules guaranteeing a high level of protection for whistleblowers across a wide range of sectors when they report breaches of EU law.

In the aftermath of recent scandals such as Panama Papers, LuxLeaks and football leaks, the introduction of new legislation is an attempt to prevent breaches of EU law such as fraud and corruption, enhance transparency and provide comprehensive protection for whistleblowers across the whole of the EU.

The level of whistleblower protection differs greatly among the EU institutions and EU Member States with only 10 EU countries having comprehensive law in place protecting whistleblowers. In the remaining countries, protection is limited or applies to specific sectors or categories of employee.

In the past, there have been examples of how insufficient protection in one-member state not only harms the functioning of EU policies in that member state but can also leak into other member states and into the EU as a whole. The provision of the new EU wide rules aims to mitigate against the consequences of breaches of EU law with a cross-border dimension.

The new rules require that employers create safe and secure reporting channels within their organisation and protect whistleblowers who bypass internal reporting channels and those who directly alert outside authorities.

The new EU Whistleblower Protection Directive states that the following elements should be included:

a) Channels for receiving the reports, which are designed, set up and operated in a secure manner that ensure the confidentiality of the identity of the whistleblower and any third party mentioned in the report, and prevent access to non-authorised staff members.

b) An acknowledgment of receipt of the report to the whistleblower within no more than seven days of receipt.

c) The designation of an impartial person or department for following up on the reports, and maintaining communication, asking for further information and providing feedback to the whistleblower.

d) Diligent follow-up of the report by the designated person or department.

e) Diligent follow-up of anonymous reporting where provided for in national law.

f) A reasonable timeframe for providing feedback to the whistleblower about the report follow-up, not exceeding three months from the acknowledgment of receipt.

g) Clear and easily accessible information regarding the conditions and procedures for reporting externally to competent authorities.

The new rules to implement safe whistleblowing reporting channels will apply to organisations both in the private or public sector if their workforce is greater than 50 employees - and to public authorities.

Businesses across EU member states are required to bring into force these laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with these new rules within 2 years of adoption, likely to be 2021.

External whistleblowing service providers can assist in the implementation of whistleblowing services to comply with the forthcoming changes in whistleblowing EU laws.   If you would like further information about implementation of an independent external whistleblowing service please follow this link, or alternatively, please contact our sales team on +44(0)1224 625111

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