BEERG: EU Adopts Expansive Whistleblower Protections

November 01, 2019

The EU formally adopted a new Directive to safeguard whistleblowers and to ensure that employees and other stakeholders can raise concerns confidentially and with confidence that they will not be retaliated against.

Member nations now have two years in which to transpose the legislation into national law, which means the Directive will come into force at the national level in October 2021, with employers with 250 or more employees required to comply within two years.

Key provisions of the new Directive include:

  • Protection exists not only for employees who report their concerns, but also for job applicants, former employees, supporters of the whistleblower, and journalists.

  • These persons are protected from dismissal, retaliation, and any form of discrimination.

  • Protection applies only to reports of wrongdoing relating to EU law, such as tax fraud, money laundering or public procurement offences, product and road safety, environmental protection, public health, and consumer and data protection.  The EU wants national legislators to extend this to cover offences relating to national laws.

  • The whistleblower can initially choose whether to report a concern internally within the company or directly to the competent supervisory authority.  If nothing happens in response to such a report, or if the whistleblower has reason to believe that it is in the public interest, they can also go directly to the public.  They are protected in either case.

The EU Directive also imposes a number of obligations on businesses, including setting up particular internal processes and reporting channels, required personal meetings with whistleblowers should it be requested, protecting whistleblowers’ identity, confirming receipt of a report to whistleblowers within seven days, and maintaining records of evidence, among other requirements.

Companies that obstruct the reporting of concerns or attempt to obstruct them will face penalties.  The same applies if companies fail to keep the identity of the whistleblower confidential.  Retaliatory measures against whistleblowers will also be punished.  National legislators will decide on the scope and severity of such penalties.

Read the full BEERG Global Labor Newsletter.