What You Need to Know about the EU Whistleblower Protection Act
The European Commission has recently proposed a bill to strengthen the legal protection of whistleblowers regardless of their employment status throughout EU states.
A draft directive issued by the EU Commission protects whistleblowers from retaliation, while also implementing specific reporting channels and response requirements for employers.
What is a Whistleblower?
According to the European Commission, “a whistleblower is someone who reports fraudulent activities, tax evasion, security breaches, and similar offenses at workplaces.”
To prevent penalizing people who act in good faith, whistleblowers also get protection if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the reported information is true at the time of reporting or if they have serious suspicions as to what they observed was illegal activity.
Where it applies?
The act covers employees as well as self-employed people, freelancers, consultants, contractors, suppliers, volunteers, unpaid trainees, and job applicants. From an organizational perspective, the Whistleblower Protection Act applies to companies with more than 50 employees or companies that have an annual turnover of more than €10 million.
These companies are required to set up an internal procedure to handle whistleblowers’ reports. Local governments that oversee 10,000 or more residents will also have to comply. Also, these companies and local governments must ensure the confidentiality of the whistleblower.
Countries such as France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom are said to have a comprehensive law that protects whistleblowers. Other countries – for example, Cyprus and Latvia – have no whistleblower protection rules, whereas 17 other EU states offer only partial protection. Whistleblowers, who are facing retaliation in the countries like Estonia and Finland have no specific legal route.
What Type of Protection Do Whistleblowers Get?
The new act would set up secure channels and force Member States to oblige with prohibiting any kind of retaliation including termination, demotion or any other forms of retaliation against the whistleblower. Additionally, it would require reporting within an organization and to public authorities. The new law will also help uphold freedom of expression, freedom of the media and the work of investigative journalists.
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