EU: On 12 March in Strasbourg, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Member States reached an agreement on new EU rules to better protect whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law. WhistleB’s founders Gunilla Hadders and Karin Henriksson view this decision as an endorsement of everything the company has worked for since it started in 2011.
“Ever since the beginning, we have seen our company as a European provider of whistleblowing services. That means that we always ensure the service is kept fully up-to-date according to the latest data security trends and laws. Without the very strictest level of data security, it is impossible to create trust in the whistleblowing service, and this results in our customers not receiving the whistleblowing reports that are so valuable to them. The sensitive information that comes in via a whistleblowing channel must absolutely be protected,” says Gunilla Hadders.
A press release from the European Commission states the following:
“The new EU rules to better protect whistleblowers cover a wide reach of areas of EU law, including anti-money laundering and corporate taxation, data protection, protection of the Union’s financial interests, food and product safety and environmental protection and nuclear safety. Moreover, Member States are free to extend these rules to other areas. The Commission encourages them to establish comprehensive frameworks for whistleblower protection based on the same principles.
- Clear reporting procedures and obligations for employers: the new EU rules to better protect whistleblowers will establish a system of safe channels for reporting both within an organisation and to public authorities.
- Safe reporting channels: whistleblowers are encouraged to report first internally, if the breach they want to reveal can be effectively addressed within their organisation and where they do not risk retaliation. They may also report directly to the competent authorities as they see fit, in light of the circumstances of the case. In addition, if no appropriate action is taken after reporting to the authorities or in case of imminent or manifest danger to the public interest or where reporting to the authorities would not work, for instance because the authorities are in collusion with the perpetrator of the crime, whistleblowers may make a public disclosure including to the media. This will protect whistleblowers when they act as sources for investigative journalism.
- Prevention of retaliation and effective protection: The rules will protect whistleblowers against dismissal, demotion and other forms of retaliation. They will also require from national authorities that they inform citizens about whistleblowing procedures and protection available. Whistleblowers will also be protected in judicial proceedings.
Currently, only ten EU countries (France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden and United Kingdom) have a comprehensive law protecting whistleblowers.
Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said in the EU press release:
“Dieselgate, the Panama Papers and Cambridge Analytica revelations made us realise how whistleblowers help uncover unlawful activities that damage both the public interest and our general welfare. We must support and protect the courageous people who bring illegal activities to light. I am happy that we have reached a balanced system that encourages employers to solve problems internally but also allows whistleblowers to turn to public authorities without fear of retaliation.”
What is the next step?
This provisional agreement on new EU rules to better protect whistleblowers now has to be formally approved by both the European Parliament and the Council.
WhistleB provides a multilingual whistleblower service, based on the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). The service comes in three different packages to serve the European market’s needs for whistleblowing services. “We are very grateful to be involved in working towards transparency, and combatting corruption and other irregularities across the EU,” says Karin Henriksson.
WhistleB will soon publish its annual customer survey on organisational whistleblowing. Register here if you would like to receive a copy and/or participate in the related webinar on 9 April 2019, at 10am CET