As published on pcaw.org.uk, Tuesday 16th April, 2019.
Whistle-blowers exposing illegal conduct or abuses of law in their workplace will soon have nothing to fear when revealing the truth, thanks to a new EU Directive to protect whistle-blowers from retaliation.
The EU law, once implemented, will see protection for whistle-blowers in the public and private sector, including civil servants, the self-employed, shareholders and people belonging to management, administrative or supervisory bodies, volunteers and paid or unpaid trainees, people working for contractors, subcontractors and suppliers, people uncovering breaches during a recruitment process and finally, ex-workers. Colleagues or relatives affected by retaliation, will also be protected as well as ‘neutral people’ who provide confidential advice to whistle-blowers.
The Directive, once made law, specifically protects people reporting on breaches of law or abusing the spirit of EU laws in a wide range of important areas such as public procurement, financial services, prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, product safety, transport safety, protection of the environment, radiation protection and nuclear safety, food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, public health, consumer protection, protection of privacy and personal data and security of network and information systems, protection of the financial interests of the Union, breaches of internal market rules, including competition and State aid rules or tax avoidance issues.
The agreement comes almost two years after the Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA) Group in the European Parliament drafted its own model EU Directive to protect whistle-blowers across the European Union, but its not been easy. Several European governments wanted to make the reporting process as strict as possible so that whistle-blowers would only be protected if they reported internally first, unless they could fulfil one of the unclear exceptions that would justify reporting to regulators.
Companies with more than 50 employees are obliged to set up channels and procedures for whistle-blowers to report safely. Public bodies are also obliged to set up channels, but exceptions can be provided for municipalities with less than 10,000 inhabitants or less than 50 employees. Small municipalities can also pool resources and share channels or procedures for reporting.