NAVEX November EU Directive
Since the launch of the EU Whistleblowing Protection Directive on December 21, 2021, EU countries and organizations have been scrambling to transpose the rules into their current national laws. The Directive’s purpose is to provide greater protection across EU countries for those wanting to report breaches of EU law. Those who choose to report must now have clear reporting channel options and be protected against retaliation, among other requirements outlined in the Directive. EU companies and public bodies with 250 or more employees must execute the defined reporting system. Starting in 2023, this will change to include organizations that employ 50 or more workers.
The critical requirements of the Directive include the following:
- Safe and accessible reporting channels
- Ensuring workers know when and where to report wrongdoing
- Protecting the confidentiality of whistleblowers and those involved
- Promptly acknowledging receipt of reports within seven days
- Providing an update on the investigation within three months of the initial report
- Protecting whistleblowers from dismissal, demotion or other forms of workplace retaliation
- Keeping a record of reports for no longer than necessary to comply with GDPR data-keeping rules
For Germany, the German Whistleblowing Bill ( Hinweisgeberschutzgesetz) is expected to be passed by year’s end.
So, what does the new German bill entail? The bill covers the core elements mentioned in the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive, including the enhanced protection of whistleblowers and the right for whistleblowers to report internally at their organization or externally to a relevant authority. The current draft also extends the scope of what can be said to include violations of any German laws that are subject to criminal prosecution and administrative offenses that serve to protect employees or their representative bodies. The draft also contains a list of specific reporting items from European law, such as environmental protection, product safety or data protection, that should be raised if spotted.
In addition, the German draft includes sanctions of up to €20,000 if employers fail to set up the appropriate internal reporting channels.
Does the German Whistleblowing Bill draft address anonymous reporting?
Anonymous reporting, particularly in sensitive cases or at smaller companies, is standard practice. The German Whistleblowing Bill addresses that companies with internal reporting should also process anonymous reports, along with named reports. However, the draft also states that companies do not legally need to implement a whistleblowing system that accepts anonymous reports, leaving it to the company to decide.
Are there any specific remote guidelines in the German draft as remote working environments become more common?
Physical distance from the workplace can make it easier for cases of noncompliance, such as health and safety or fraud, to occur. Employee misconduct is harder to keep an eye on. The German draft currently contains no increased or additional regulations surrounding remote working. However, any company where employees work remotely must ensure that whistleblowing channels are easily accessible away from the office, digitally effective and meet the standard requirements of the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive.
Does the German draft include options for group companies to share a central whistleblowing reporting channel?
Unlike many other EU countries that have transposed the EU Directive into their national law, the drafted German bill allows for a central group-wide reporting channel, providing more flexibility than the EU Directive. Currently, this is unlike how the EU Commission interprets the EU Directive, who believe that separate reporting channels need to be set up for each company (subsidiary) under one group. Although, the final say will eventually come from the European Court of Justice on whether Germany’s more flexible laws on group reporting shall pass.
However, even under the German draft, verification and clarification of the reports must be carried out locally.
To learn more about how NAVEX and WhistleB by NAVEX online whistleblowing solutions can help your company to comply with EU Whistleblower Protection Directive requirements, click here. Or, to learn more about the upcoming German Whistleblowing Bill, Hinweisgeberschutzgesetz, download our NAVEX EU Whistleblower Protection Directive: Latest News webinar.