The entry into force of the whistleblower act means additional obligations for employers. Many of them have doubts about what processes need to be implemented to prepare for the new regulations. Creating internal reporting channels is an important aspect that is worth paying attention to in the context of upcoming changes.
The protection of persons reporting breaches will soon become the responsibility of employers, although the exact date of entry into force of the new provisions of the whistleblower act is still unknown. It was created in order to align Polish legislation with Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019.
The obligation to implement whistleblower protection will cover private and state employers who employ at least 50 people. In the first place, this will apply to the largest companies with more than 250 employees. Such entities will have two months from the date of publication of the act to comply with its requirements. Smaller companies with between 50 and 249 employees will be obliged to implement whistleblower protection procedures from 17 December 2023.
It is worth emphasising that state-owned and private companies from the financial market are obliged to comply with the act regardless of the number of employees.
The act provides for three main channels for reporting breaches:
1. internal (available within the organisation),
2. external (designated by public authorities)
3. public disclosures (i.e. making information available to the public).
Employers are most interested in the statutory obligation to provide an internal reporting channel. The creation of such a tool is part of the internal procedure for reporting breaches of law, which the employer will be obliged to develop. The draft procedure will have to be consulted with trade unions or workers’ representatives. The legislator provided for a period of 7 to 14 days to conduct the consultation.
See also: Recording from the Webinar: Whistleblowers – how to implement procedures for reporting breaches?
The employer is obliged to inform employees how inside the company they can report breaches. The relevant information should be visible, for example, on the website, so that people from outside the company could also have the opportunity to know it.
The whistleblowers must be able to report violations in several ways. They can do this:
The reporting channel should be as friendly as possible and accessible to the employee. It may be, for example, a designated person from the HR department on a specific day and hours on duty, during which they will receive notifications. In this case, it is worth choosing a person who inspires trust and has the skills needed in situations where we are dealing with sensitive issues, such as accusations of workplace harassment.
Additional channels are also possible — a meeting with an HR representative, a phone call to a dedicated hotline or a box made available in a discreet place, in which employees will have the opportunity to upload information.
The whistleblower must receive a confirmation of receipt after the notification has been made within 7 days.
The employer is obliged to refrain from retaliation against the person who made the report.
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