3.07.2024 Protection of whistleblowers

Whistleblower Protection Act: new obligations for employers

On 24 June, the Whistleblower Protection Act was published in the Journal of Laws. It implements the provisions of EU Directive 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of law into the Polish legal system. It defines the scope of obligations that employers must face, for example, in connection with the need to establish an internal reporting procedure. There is little time to prepare as this Act will come into force in September.

Protection of whistleblowers – when does the Act come into force?

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 14 June 2024 was published in the Journal of Laws and in accordance with a 3-month vacatio legis, it enters into forceon 25 September 2024.

An exception is made for the provisions on external notifications, which will come into force after 6 months from the date of publishing of the Act.

Act published: who has to implement the new whistleblower regulations?

According to the regulations, a whistleblower or a person who reports or discloses information about a breach of law within the scope covered by the Act, may perform:

  • internal reporting,
  • external notification or
  • public disclosure.

The Whistleblower Protection Act generally applies to all entities, and some of them have specific obligations to establish an internal reporting procedure, including reporting channels:

  • public and private sector entities that employ at least 50 people as of 1 January or 1 July of a given year, and
  • entities operating in the financial sector, regardless of whether they belong to the public or private sector and regardless of the number of employees.

Other entities may establish internal reporting procedures on a voluntary basis.

Internal reporting: key obligations of employers

An internal report is information about a breach of law in a legal entity whose whistleblower is an employee or has other gainful relationships with it.

The internal reporting procedure should specify things such as:

  • an internal organizational unit or a person within the organizational structure of a given business entity or other authorized external entity that will accept reports,
  • methods of submitting internal reports,
  • an impartial internal organisational unit or a person within the organisational structure of the entity, authorised to follow-up on reports,
  • rules for conducting the investigation,
  • maximum deadlines for providing feedback to a whistleblower,
  • keeping a register of reports.

A reporting whistleblower is protected from the moment of reporting or from the moment of public disclosure, provided that they had reasonable grounds to believe that the information provided was true and it constituted information about a breach of law.

Follow-up – what does it involve?

Follow-up are all actions aimed at assessing the accuracy of the information contained in the whistleblower’s report and which consist in counteracting the breach of law being the subject of the report.

Follow-up actions are therefore actions taken in order to:

  • assess the veracity of the report.
  • counteracting the breach of law reported by the whistleblower.

New regulations: what can a whistleblower report?

A whistleblower may report or disclose information about a breach of law, which is an act or omission that is illegal or aimed at circumventing the law, regarding:

  • corruption,
  • public procurement,
  • financial services, products and markets,
  • counteracting money laundering and terrorist financing,  
  • product safety and compliance,
  • transport safety,
  • environmental protection,
  • radiation protection and nuclear safety,
  • food and feed safety, animal health and welfare ,
  • public health,
  • consumer protection,
  • protection of privacy and personal data,
  • security of networks and ICT systems,
  • financial interests of the State Treasury of the Republic of Poland,
  • local government and the European Union units, the internal market of the European Union, including public law rules of competition and state aid and corporate taxation, as well as constitutional freedoms and human and civil rights.

Importantly, the Act does not apply to information:

  • covered by the regulations on the protection of classified information, and
  • other information not subject to disclosure by virtue of the generally applicable law for reasons of public security, covered by professional secrecy of medical and legal professions, the secrecy of judicial deliberations and criminal proceedings – as regards the secrecy of preparatory proceedings and the secrecy of court hearings conducted in camera.

Whistleblower Protection Act – find out how we can help implement the new regulations

Most of the provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act enter into force on 25 September 2024. Until then, the entities covered by new regulations should implement appropriate procedures for reporting breaches of law in their organizations. Employers may face sanctions in the form of a fine for failure to do so.

To ensure that whistleblower protection procedures are properly implemented and channels are in place for reporting irregularities and abuses, we offer you support including:

  • creating and implementing effective internal reporting procedures,
  • training for employees,
  • legal audit in terms of compliance of processes with new regulations.

Our offer is addressed to organizations operating in capital groups, small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as non-governmental organizations, non-profit organizations and public companies.

Whistleblower protection – see how we can help!

See also the recording of our webinar: Whistleblowers – how to implement whistleblowing procedures?
Recording is in Polish.

Piotr Kryczek Legal Counsel
TGC Corporate Lawyers
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