The Rise of Whistleblower Protection Legislation in Europe – and the Dignity of Business Ethics

Where countries have established whistleblower protection legislation, employers are required to follow certain provisions in order to protect whistleblowers in their organisations.

Ireland, for example, introduced a Protected Disclosures Act in 2014. While the Act foresees a number of possible reporting channels, it primarily encourages internal reporting. The Serbian Whistleblowing Act, introduced last year, not only gives the whistleblower stronger protection, it also requires mechanisms to guarantee a whistleblower’s identity to remain confidential. Reporting channels have to be available 24/7, and non-compliance is fineable. Also Slovakia passed a whistleblower protection law last year.

This year a new whistleblower protection law was adopted in the Netherlands, the ‘House of the Whistleblower’ Bill. If a whistleblower’s relationship to his employer is affected by a disclosure of potential wrongdoing, he remains entitled to continued payment of wages. And as of next year a new law for stronger whistleblower protection will also be adapted in Sweden.

What we are witnessing is a shift in the status of corporate whistleblowers. Employees that speak up when suspecting actions that are not in line with the business ethics codes, are vital for creating a transparent business life.

The whistleblower protection laws do not only protect the whistleblower, but gives dignity to business ethics in general; by having a corporate whistleblower procedure, the company management and the board show that they mean what they say in their business ethics codes. And most importantly, they commit to take actions when the ethical codes are broken. This commitment is vital. And to enable that words lead to actions, the protected, and in many cases anonymous whistleblower, has a main role to play.

By Karin Henriksson, Founding Partner, WhistleB

Download the WhistleB study on Corporate whistleblowing 2016.

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