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EU Whistleblower Protection: How to Meet the New Requirements

EU Whistleblower Protection: How to Meet the New Requirements

In order to guarantee a Europe-wide standard for the protection of whistleblowers, the European Parliament adopted regulations for EU-wide whistleblower protection on April 16, 2019. The directive will officially enter into force on 16.12.2019 as Directive 2019/1937. A two-year implementation period begins during which time EU member states will be obliged to implement the directive into their own national laws until 2021. We have summarized the key aspects of the new law and what companies should do now to prepare.

At a glance

The new EU law: protecting whistleblowers

The directive will officially enter into force on 16.12.2019 as Directive 2019/1937. 5 Facts About the New EU Whistleblower Directive:

  1. The European Union Regulation protects whistleblowers who report a violation of EU law. This includes, for example, legal violations such as tax fraud, money laundering, or data protection violations.
  2. The regulation not only affects employees, but also protects trainees, volunteers, and self-employed workers.
  3. The EU Directive requires companies with more than 50 employees to take measures to protect whistleblowers and to establish confidential whistleblower channels and clear reporting processes.
  4. Whistleblowers are encouraged to report observations first through internal channels. Depending on the circumstances of the case, whistleblowers may also contact the competent national authorities or the competent EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. In addition, whistleblowers can also approach the public and the media with impunity if, for example, no appropriate action has been taken after the initial report to the company or the authorities, or if there is an immediate or obvious threat to the public interest.
  5. Whistleblowers (and their supporters, such as colleagues or family members) benefit from special legal protection against all forms of retaliation (such as dismissal, degradation or intimidation). Additionally, they are given access to legal, financial, and psychological support.

press release of the European Parliament

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How companies can prepare for the new whistleblowing law

The EU whistleblowing rules give whistleblowers the flexibility to contact internal hotlines within the company first or go directly to external bodies (authorities, journalists, the public). From the company's point of view, however, it is desirable to obtain information internally first as much as possible. In this way, it is possible to react at an early stage and potentially deal with misconduct before the public becomes aware of it. Professional, internal handling of information thus helps to avoid reputational damage and financial risks.

Benefits of internal reporting

Given the flexibility in the choice of reporting channels, companies will now be required to make internal reporting as simple and attractive as possible. Most importantly, this includes the establishment of internal reporting channels that provide security and, ideally, anonymity to whistleblowers. Only then will whistleblowers be motivated to turn to internal departments first.

Finding the right reporting channel

There are many options when it comes to choosing an internal reporting channel: the most common include letterboxes, email, ombudsmen, telephone hotlines and digital whistleblowing systems. Compliance experts are increasingly recommending digital whistleblowing systems, particularly because of the security and anonymity that they can offer. They are also easy for whistleblowers to access, regardless of location, which makes this reporting channel even more attractive.

White Paper: Reporting Channels

This White Paper discusses which reporting channels are recommended for companies.

Study: Whistleblowing Report 2019

The Whistleblowing Report summarizes the extent to which companies already use whistleblowing systems today.

3 Tips on How to Prepare Your Company for the EU Directive on the Protection of Whistleblowers

Ensure that your employees can report grievances and misconduct within your organization. To do this, set up a confidential and secure whistleblower system that also supports your ability to efficiently handle cases. Make sure that the system also complies with current data protection regulations such as GDPR.
Looking for the right reporting channel for your company? Our free white paper will help you compare different whistleblowing channels.

Clarify which departments are responsible for handling cases and how internal investigations are conducted. In addition, train your colleagues on how to manage reporting channels.

Inform your employees in advance about the introduction of the reporting channel. Ensure that all employees know how to report grievances confidentially. Include whistleblower channel communication in your onboarding training and regularly remind your staff of the reporting process.

The road to EU Whistleblowing law

  • Since April 2018, negotiators from the EU states and the European Parliament had been discussing the proposal submitted in April. A "provisional agreement" was reached on 11th March 2019.
  • The European Parliament adopted regulations for EU-wide whistleblower protection on April 16, 2019. 

We are happy to help you to prepare for the new law

Manuel Rekittke

Manuel Rekittke

Head of Sales Compliance Services

+49 89 210298-25

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