The EU has introduced new legislation to protect whistleblowers, who often play a key role in uncovering unlawful activities.
In many cases, whistleblowers are penalised for reporting on illegal behaviour within organisations. In fact, the EU reports that some 36% of workers who reported misconduct experienced some form of retaliation. The EU’s new legislation to protect whistleblowers seeks to prevent retaliation such as demotion or dismissal, and safeguard their ability to shed light on unlawful activity.
The new rules will aim to establish safe channels for reporting unlawful activities both within organisations and to public authorities, and will encourage member states to provide training and information for citizens and public authorities on how to deal with whistleblowers.
What will new protection mechanisms involve?
The new legislation will require all companies with more than 50 employees, or with an annual turnover of more than €10m, to establish an internal procedure to handle the reports of whistleblowers.
In addition, organisations will need to establish a number of new protection measures, including an obligation to respond or follow up on whistleblower reports within three months when these are received through internal reporting channels. If reporting via internal channels could jeopardise any potential investigation, a tiered system will encourage reporting to competent authorities, or to the media.
The EU’s proposal is designed to protect whistleblowers who are reporting crimes and acting in good faith in the public interest. Therefore, the new legislation to protect whistleblowers also includes safeguards to discourage false or malicious reports that could result in unjustified reputational damage.
What has the European Commission said?
European Commission First Vice President, Frans Timmermans, said that many recent scandals – including the Panama Papers and the recent Cambridge Analytica revelations – would not have come to light without whistleblowers, and that those with the courage to come forward must be protected.
He said: “If we better protect whistleblowers, we can better detect and prevent harm to the public interest such as fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance or damage to people’s health and the environment. There should be no punishment for doing the right thing.”