On the evening of Tuesday 12 March 2019, the European Commission reached a provisional agreement on new rules that will provide better protection for whistleblowers.

The EU Directive will protect whistleblowers reporting on breaches of the law or abusing the spirit of EU laws in a wide range of areas.

It will also offer protection from retaliation, such as dismissal, demotion and other forms of detriment.

Tackling retaliation

In the new EU Directive, if a company is accused of retaliating against a whistleblower, then the burden of proof will be reversed. This means that the person or organisation must prove that they are not acting in retaliation against the whistleblower, rather than the placing the onus of proof on the whistleblower themselves.

Here’s what the First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said:

“We should protect whistleblowers from being punished, sacked, demoted or sued in court for doing the right thing for society. These new, EU-wide whistleblowers’ protection rules do exactly that and will make sure they can report in a safe way on breaches of EU law in many areas. This will help tackle fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance and damage to people’s health and the environment. We encourage Member States to put in place comprehensive frameworks for whistleblower protection based on the same principles.”

Establishing consistency across Member States

The Commission is encouraging Member States to establish comprehensive frameworks for whistleblower protection based on the following principles:

  • Clear reporting procedures and channels, within the organisation as well as governing authorities outside of the organisation.
  • A three tier reporting system: Internal reporting channels, reporting to competent authorities and as a final resort and if there is clear danger to the public, then taking the issue to the media.
  • Prevention of retaliation and effective protection: All forms of retaliation are forbidden.

Providing feedback to whistleblowers

If the agreement is passed in its current form then there will be feedback obligations for authorities and companies. This will require the company to respond and follow-up with the whistleblowers within three months.

Who will be affected?

Provided there are no changes in the EU Directive’s current form,it will apply to:

  • All companies with 50 or more employees

OR

  • Companies with an annual turnover of over €10 million

The new Directive in its current form also covers all state, regional administrations and municipalities with over 10,000 inhabitants.

Organisations or bodies subject to these rules will be required to establish an internal procedure to handle whistleblowers’ reports.

To find out more information on the New Directive, visit: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-3441_en.htm