EU Whistleblower Protection Directive Updates: France
Since December 2021, all EU member states must comply with the legal requirements of the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive. The Directive was designed to protect, empower, and enhance the reporting options available to whistleblowers across the EU. Including France, many member states are amending old whistleblowing laws to effectively transpose the Directive’s rules into their national law. France has since amended their Sapin II law, which requires French companies and global corporations operating in France to prevent and detect acts of corruption to meet the expectations of the Agence Française Anticorruption (AFA).
To help you gain a better understanding of the new French whistleblowing laws, NAVEX is answering some of the frequently asked questions below:
What is the application Decree No.2022-1284, and what does it involve?
As of 3rd October 2022, application decree No. 2022-1284, included within Sapin II, came into play to set further clarifications for French companies on internal and external reporting.
For internal reporting, should a whistleblower want to report orally, a company’s whistleblowing procedure must now specify available hotline options. A report can be collected by telephone, voice message system or, at the whistleblower’s request, during a video conference or physical meeting. However, video or physical meetings must take place within 20 working days from receipt of the report. In addition, the whistleblower must be informed, in writing, of receipt of the report within seven working days of the issue being raised.
Further, the company must communicate, in writing to the whistleblower, information on measures planned or taken to assess the accuracy of the allegations. If appropriate, the report should aim to be closed within three months from the acknowledgment of receipt.
Regarding external reporting, the decree lists an annex of competent external authorities to collect and process whistleblowing reports. Those authorities must also communicate, in writing to the whistleblower, information on the planned measures taken to assess the allegations and the aim to remedy the report within three months from the acknowledgment of receipt. However, this period can be extended to six months if the report is complex. In this case, the whistleblower is informed of the extension during the first three months.
Besides the changes to the internal and external reporting guidelines, several additional obligations but now be followed:
- Each authority must communicate, before the 31st December of each year, to the Defender of Rights (« Défenseur des Droits, » i.e., the French leader in charge of protection of rights) a detailed report on processed reports.
- Organisations must inform the reporting person of any reasons justifying the denial of their report in cases that a report is deemed inadmissible by the receiving entity (due to the legal status of the reporting person or the nature of the alert).
- There are 23 listed “competent authorities” that now receive, provide feedback, and follow up on external reports: French Anticorruption Agency (“AFA”), French Competition Authority, French Data Protection Authority (“CNIL”), the French National Authority for Health (“HAS”), the French General Inspectorate for Social Affairs (“IGAS”), etc.
French Whistleblowing FAQs
If a whistleblowing report is made by someone in France, can it be investigated outside of France?
Current French laws in principle do not prohibit a French whistleblowing report investigation outside France. Although, should an investigation take place externally on a group reporting level, companies must ensure that investigation procedures comply with French and GDPR laws.
How do global companies apply the French directive?
French legal whistleblower framework currently applies to legal entities with 50 or more employees or companies in specific sectors (e.g., the financial industry.) If a global company has fewer than 15 employees in France, it does not need to set up a French whistleblowing system. However, leaving any number of employees in France without access to a whistleblowing system or hotlines does not show seriousness or responsibility on the topic of whistleblowing by that company.
According to French law, are there sanctions for not implementing a whistleblowing channel?
There are no direct legal sanctions in place should a company or employer not implement a whistleblowing program. However, for example, if an employee feels that they have been unfairly dismissed or that they did not have access to a whistleblowing channel when in need of assistance, the company could be required to pay damages to the employee because the company did nothing internally to help their situation. Breach of the general obligation to prevent corruption can be subject to heavy administrative penalties imposed by the Sanctions Committee of the AFA.
To learn more about how NAVEX and WhistleB by NAVEX hotline solutions can help your company comply with the new French whistleblowing laws, view our solutions or download our recent EU Whistleblower Directive: Latest News – French Special Edition 2022 webinar.