Comprehensive Protection of WhistleblowersWhistleblowers are key in detecting, investigating and preventing breaches of European Union (EU) and national laws. Thus, whistleblowing (reporting wrongdoing) should be encouraged by authorities, however, there are currently large discrepancies between whistleblowing protection policies between states. For example, not all Member States have comprehensive whistleblower protection. Therefore, in April 2018, the EU proposed comprehensive whistleblowing protection laws which are currently under consideration, with discussions taking place on 3 December 2018.

Concerns – Comprehensive Protection of Whistleblowers

Whistleblowing is essential to safeguarding against corruption and upholding free speech. However, there is concern that there is a lack of faith in protection policies and a lack of knowledge of whistleblowing policies in the general public. In 2017, the Special Eurobarometer found that 81% of respondents did not report corruption. Further, the Commission’s research showed that 49% of respondents did not know where to report corruption.

Whistleblowers risk a lot when reporting wrongdoing, such as:

  • Unemployment
  • Economic instability
  • Financial hardship
  • Sullied reputation
  • Personal safety
  • Legal repercussions

Proposal – Comprehensive Protection of Whistleblowers

The EU’s proposal aims to set high standards for Member States and establish safe channels for reporting wrongdoing.  The EU proposal is designed to protect genuine whistleblowers with reasonable grounds to believe the reported information is accurate from forms of retaliation (e.g. dismissal). The proposal is to protect whistleblowers reporting about:

  • Finances
  • Transport safety
  • Public health
  • Product safety
  • Consumer protection
  • Privacy and personal data
  • Animal welfare

The EU’s proposal requires private companies with more than 50 employees to establish confidential channels for reporting wrongdoing. Private companies with less than 50 employees may also be required to implement reporting channels following risk assessment by their Member State. Government organisations of Member States will also be required to implement confidential reporting channels if they have more than 50 employees or there are over 10,000 inhabitants in their jurisdiction. Member States will be required to raise awareness of the whistleblowing protection laws by publishing easily-accessible information online.

Process – Comprehensive Protection of Whistleblowers

The EU proposes the following reporting process for whistleblowing:

  1. An individual is to report their internal reporting channel.
  2. However, if the internal channel is not functioning property, the individual works for a small or micro company, or the individual is a non-employee, then they can report directly to state authorities or, where relevant, to EU bodies.
  3. Authorities must provide the individual feedback within three months of reporting.
  4. If the individual does not receive feedback within the timeframe, they can publicly disclose their report.

Remedies – Comprehensive Protection of Whistleblowers

The EU’s proposal provides safeguards, such as:

  • Legal advice
  • Interim relief
  • Protection from liability
  • Protection in Court proceedings
  • Confidentiality
  • Presumption of innocence
  • Right to remedies

Whistleblowers are key in exposing corruption. The EU’s proposal will promote whistleblowing by providing comprehensive protection and safeguards for whistleblowers (Comprehensive Protection of Whistleblowers).

Víctor Sáez

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