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Directive on whistleblower protection adopted

09.10.2019

On 7 October the European Union adopted a Directive extending the protection of whistleblowers. The EU Member States, including Poland, will have only two years to implement new provisions.

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Whistleblower protection – what changes does the Directive introduce?

On 7 October 2019, the representatives of EU Member States adopted the Directive on whistleblower protection i.e. persons reporting on breaches of EU law. For the first time in the history of the European Union, the Directive introduces comprehensive provisions to protect whistleblowers in public institutions and enterprises within all Member States. Until now, significant protection was in force in only 10 countries across the EU, and the greatest protection for whistleblowers was provided by the Irish legal system.

The new Directive introduces a number of important and key changes. Particular attention should be given to the provisions concerning:

  • necessity to implement a safe reporting procedure:
    • in each private and public sector entity employing at least 50 persons,
    • in each local government unit with at least 10 000 inhabitants;
  • extending the whistleblowers` protection also on the third persons who assist them;
  • strengthening of whistleblower`s identity protection;
  • possibility for whistleblowers to file claims for loss of income, loss of goodwill, damage suffered and dismissal;
  • abolition of the penalties and sanctions for the misuse of whistleblowers` right to report on breaches and for making false reports by them;
  • increase of the penalties and sanctions for the failure to ensure the confidentiality of whistleblower's identity;
  • increase of the penalties for the persons who retaliate against reporting persons and who hinder reporting on breaches;
  • providing the support to whistleblowers by workers' organisations and trade unions;
  • introduction of three channels for reporting on breaches:
    • internal,
    • external,
    • public - being more accessible than before to a potential whistleblower.

Whistleblowers – the new provisions implementation deadline

The Member States, including Poland, have only 24 months from the date of publication of the Directive in the Official Journal to introduce the amendments. In some countries, implementation of the new regulations will require a lot of work, as so far only ten out of twenty-eight EU Member States have applied extensive protection for whistleblowers.

The transposition of the Directive will include, inter alia, the necessity to close existing loopholes and to adapt the current provisions to the required changes. It will therefore require the necessity to develop appropriate tools and measures for the comprehensive whistleblowers` protection, including the designation of a new ombudsman or a national whistleblowing authority or the extension of the competences of the existing ombudsman.

Moreover, the national legislation should require public entities and competent authorities to gather and publish data annually on external and internal reporting, and on whistleblowers’ complaints of retaliation.

Learn More: Whistleblowers protection in a new bill on liability of collective entities

 

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