What You Need To Know About The EU Whistleblower Directive

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

What You Need To Know About The EU Whistleblower Directive

The EU Whistleblower Protection Directive is one of the most impactful pieces of continental European legislation in the past couple of years — at least when it comes to corporate law. And while the Directive was enacted in December 2019, it will be transcribed by member countries by the end of 2021. This is the deadline for EU member states to introduce the contents of this directive in their national legislation.

But what does this mean for companies operating on European soil? We’ll give you a detailed rundown of all the important information regarding this EU directive right here.

For starters, it’s essential to understand the objective of this Directive. With it, EU lawmakers have attempted to codify the myriad benefits of whistleblowing and make whistleblowing a realistic option for all employees in various member state companies.

The Directive promotes and provides a secure and safe way for people to raise their voices against any workplace misconduct — without fearing repercussions. More specifically, it introduces a reporting system divided into three tiers — internal reporting in organisations, external reporting to the relevant authorities, and finally, public overtures to the media.

Background

The European Commission has long recognised the essential nature of whistleblowers for the legal and legitimate functioning of member state organisations. Whistleblowers have a crucial role in the effective detection, prosecution, and investigation of potential violations of EU law.

Still, whistleblowers are provided wildly varying levels of protection across EU member states — their status is fragmented and uneven across different policy areas. With this Directive, the goal of the European Commission is to provide whistleblowers with a high level of protection. The Directive guarantees certain options for individuals who speak up against breaches of EU law, and sets a common EU-wide standard for their protection.

Transposition

All EU member states must transpose this Directive’s provisions into their national institutional and legal systems by 17 December 2021 — two years from when the Directive was passed into force.


It should be noted that individual EU member states may adopt stricter and broader measures than the ones outlined by the Directive — the European Commission has merely laid out a minimum of measures that everyone has to adopt.

Who is protected?


This Directive protects any whistleblowers who have information regarding work-related breaches of EU law and have reasonable grounds to think that this information is both true and within the Directive’s scope.

The reporters protected by this Directive are any shareholders, self-employed contractors, trainees, volunteers, job applicants, and past and current employees. Also, anyone working under the direction and supervision of suppliers, subcontractors, and contractors can report a violation.

Importantly, the protection extends to facilitators as well — people who have confidently assisted the whistleblower, such as other colleagues or relatives.

Scope of application


There’s a broad range of areas in which reporters of EU law breaches receive protection under this directive:

  • Protection of personal data
  • Protection of privacy
  • Consumer protection
  • Public health
  • Food safety
  • Protection of the environment
  • Transport safety
  • Product safety
  • Prevention of money laundering
  • Prevention of terrorist financing
  • Financial services
  • Public procurement


Internal reporting


All organisations and legally registered entities in the public and private sector need to establish a channel for internal reporting and further follow-up. Third-party solutions like Qualee that have clear and secure real-time messaging features can be used for these purposes. However, these provisions don’t apply to private sector organisations with fewer than 50 employees.


Also, importantly — employees don’t necessarily have to use the internal reporting tier first, but they’re strongly encouraged to do so.

External reporting & Public Disclosures

Whistleblowers can also make their report externally to any relevant and competent authority within their member states. If the reporting persons don’t trust the internal reporting channel, or if one isn’t readily available, they can file an external report right away. Also, in some conditions, those who disclose the contents of the report publicly — aka via public media — will also have protection by the Directive.

Penalties and other stipulations

The Directive provides instructions for implementing penalties against any hindering, retaliation, or attempts to reveal the whistleblower’s identity or stop them. However, it also provides penalties against false reporting.

The member states can decide on the specifics of the penalties. Also, once it’s determined that a whistleblowing report was entirely made in line with this Directive and that the reporting person has suffered a detrimental effect — the employer has the burden of proof to show that they didn’t retaliate. Also, member states are free to decide on measures of compensation for the reporters.

Deadlines


As mentioned above, organisations must comply with this Directive by 17 December 2021. However, private sector organisations with 50 to 249 employees are the exception — they have a protracted deadline by 17 December 2023.

The Qualee platform allows you to provide your staff with an anonymous messaging channel to assure you are 100% compliant with international whistleblowing legislation. Sign up for a Starter Plan with Qualee today!

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