Major recent whistleblowing affairs like LuxLeaks have sparked a debate in Europe about not only the content, but also the methods, of the disclosures involved. Some whistleblowers have faced criticism and even legal action - all against the backdrop of a legal landscape in Europe with widely varying national rules and regulations governing whistleblowing. Seeking to harmonize law across the EU while encouraging responsible and effective whistleblowing, the EC earlier this year adopted a directive for member states to enact comprehensive legislation that helps public and privatesector insiders report EU law violations by establishing formal procedures for whistleblowing and protections for those who use them. In this article, we look at what the EC’s directive might mean for whistleblowers and their employers within the context of the current patchwork of regulations in several CEE jurisdictions.
European Commission’s Directive on Whistleblower Protections
On 16 April 2019, the European Union adopted the “Directive on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law” requiring member states to set up laws to ensure that appropriate procedures and protections are available to whistleblowers.
The Directive’s scope is limited to reports on infringements of certain EU laws (mainly, public procurement, money laundering, product safety, and and animal health and welfare), but it broadly covers both the public and private sector. It sets up systems to encourage internal reporting of misconduct within an organization while also providing additional avenues for external reporting to public authorities. It covers a large swath of the civil service and private sector workforce, though private companies or municipalities with fewer than 50 employees (and municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants) are exempt from requirements for setting up internal reporting procedures.
The Directive protects whistleblowers from retaliation (such as demotion, suspension, withholding of training or promotion, denial of services or supplies, boycotting of business, etc.) or being in breach of any contractual or legal requirements regarding disclosure of their employer’s information. It also penalizes hindering a report, retaliating or bringing vexatious proceedings against a reporting person as well as revealing their identity. Additionally, it provides for free information and assistance to whistleblowers who report misconduct to obtain protection from retaliation.
The Directive confers “minimum” harmonization, leaving the method and means of compliance (and the option to set stricter rules) to member states, with a 15 May 2021 deadline for implementation.
Full article including Survey of National Laws for Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and
Takeaways About the National Laws Surveyed and the Potential Impact of the EC Directive is attched below.
24th April 2019