The Council of the EU has agreed to adopt new rules shoring up the protection of whistleblowers across a range of sectors from retaliation.
At present, only 10 EU Member States offer comprehensive legal protection for whistleblowers. Under the new directive, Member States will be compelled to establish safe reporting channels both within organisations and directly to public authorities; while national governments will be expected to provide citizens and public officials with the necessary information and training to deal appropriately with incidences of whistleblowing. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “I welcome the strong signal sent to whistleblowers by the Council today. Whistleblowers are courageous people who dare to bring illegal activities to light and stand up on their own to protect the public from wrongdoing.”
The new directive on whistleblower protection, which covers employees in the public and private sector; trainees and volunteers; shareholders; and non-executive members, includes provision for:
- Implementing ‘effective and efficient’ channels for reporting misconduct in companies with more than 50 employees and municipalities with over 10,000 residents;
- Enhanced safeguarding protocols to protect whistleblowers and those who assist them from intimidation or work penalties – such as suspension, demotion or dismissal – as a result of highlighting wrongdoing; and
- Committing businesses and authorities to follow up and respond to whistleblowers’ reports within three months.
Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “Whistleblowers should not be punished for doing the right thing. Our new, EU-wide rules will make sure they can report in a safe way on breaches of EU law in many areas. Whistleblowers can be crucial sources for investigative journalists. Therefore, protecting them also promotes media freedom. I urge Member States to implement the new rules without delay.”
Finnish Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson said: “The EU is committed to having a well functioning democratic system based on the rule of law. That includes providing a high level of protection across the Union to those whistleblowers who have the courage to speak up. No one should risk their reputation or job for exposing illegal behaviours.”
The directive on whistleblower protection will be published in the official journal of the Council of the EU; after which Member States will have two years to integrate its components into their own national laws.