EU Whistleblower Protection Directive: it’s time to focus on your internal reporting channels

Scandals such as Dieselgate, LuxLeaks, the Panama Papers, Cambridge Analytica and more recently at Danske Bank showcased the key role, but also the vulnerability, of whistleblowers. The European Union realised that these scandals may never have come to light without courageous insiders speaking up. In April 2019 the “Directive on the Protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law”, which is also known as the “EU Whistleblowing Directive”, was adopted.

The EU Whistleblowing Directive requires organisations with more than 50 employees to take measures to protect whistleblowers against retaliation by establishing internal confidential reporting channels and setting up clear procedures.

Member States (and legal entities) must be ready to comply by end of 2021. Organisations with less than 250 employees have two more years to comply.

A three-tier reporting structure is being introduced. This structure will give whistleblowers the opportunity to report their concerns through the following channels:

  1. Internal reporting channels: to be set up by any legal entity with more than 50 employees;
  2. External reporting channels: facilitated by the relevant national authorities or the appropriate EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies; or
  3. Public reporting channels: going directly to the media, as a last resort option.

Whistleblowers are encouraged to use the internal reporting channel first, but this is not obligatory to qualify for protection. They can choose the channel of their preference, e.g. when fearing retaliation.

It’s time… to realise that ‘whistleblowing’ will become a hot topic.

The EU Whistleblowing Directive will lower the barrier to report, which is a good thing! People will be encouraged to speak up, which contributes to a more transparent society Just like how the introduction of the GDPR started an irreversible trend of increased focus on privacy and transparency.

It also means that it is time to focus on your internal reporting mechanism. If you have an effective and safe reporting system in place, your people will feel comfortable to speak up internally. This will give your organisation a chance to detect and solve issues as soon as possible. Otherwise, employees might feel that going to the authorities or to the media (with sensitive information) is their only option.

So… think about what it takes to set up an effective and trusted system and give your people a real chance to speak up!

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