The European Parliament reached a "provisional agreement" for EU-wide whistleblower protections on 11th March 2019. Below is a summary of this agreement:
- The new rules cover broad areas of EU law, including anti-money laundering and corporate taxation, data protection, protection of the Union's financial interests, food and product safety and environmental protection and nuclear safety.
- Whistleblowers are encouraged to report internally first if the breach can be effectively addressed within their organization and they do not risk retaliation.
- Depending on the circumstances of the case, they may also report directly to the competent national authorities or to relevant EU institutions, bodies, offices, and agencies.
- In addition, whistleblowers may make a public disclosure, including disclosure to the media, in the following cases:
- If no appropriate action is taken after reporting to the authorities;
- If there is imminent or manifest danger to the public interest;
- If reporting to the authorities would not work, for instance because the authorities are colluding with the perpetrator of the crime.
- Whistleblowers (and people who assist them, e.g. colleagues or facilitators) will benefit from effective protection against any form of retaliation (e.g. suspension, demotion or intimidation). They will have access to legal, financial, and psychological support.
- According to MEP Virginie Rozière, organizations with more than 50 employees and public authorities will be obligated to take appropriate measures, such as establishing safe reporting channels and clear whistleblowing procedures.
press conference, 12.03.2019
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.
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White Paper: Reporting Channels
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Study: Whistleblowing Report
The Whistleblowing Report summarizes the extent to which companies already use whistleblowing systems today.
Solution: EQS Integrity Line
Our whistleblower system is fully compliant with the new law and suitable for companies of all sizes.
- To date, only a few European member states, such as France, have implemented concrete protective measures for whistleblowers.
- The lack of clear protective mechanisms has meant that only a few employees have been prepared to report grievances in companies.
- In April 2018, the EU Commission therefore launched a proposal for a directive aimed at providing uniform protection for whistleblowers.
- 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 agreement still needs be formally confirmed by the EU states and the parliament.
EQS Integrity Line, EQS Group’s digital whistleblowing system, has been supporting companies in handling whistleblower protection since 2009.
EQS Integrity Line – key features:
- Guaranteed anonymity thanks to encrypted forms
- Two-way communication with the whistleblower
- Multiple languages available for whistleblowers and case handlers
- Highest safety standards and GDPR conformity
- Integrated case management