The Council of Ministers in October adopted new rules to ensure countries in the bloc change domestic laws protect insiders who expose institutional wrong doing. The formally adopted new rules will guarantee a high level of protection for whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law by setting new, EU-wide standards. The directive on the whistleblower protection establishes the introduction of protective measures such as safe channels for reporting both within an organisation and to public authorities.
Member of states in the European Union will have two years to transpose the whistleblower directive, which applies to both the public and private sectors, into their national laws.
Over the years the protection given to whisteblowers across the EU has been fragmented and uneven. With only 10 EU Member states (one of which is the United Kingdom, which is set to leave the European Union) currently ensuring that whistleblowers are fully protected. However, in the remaining countries, the protection granted is partial and only applies to specific sectors or categories of employee.
The directive will protects whistleblowers against dismissal, demotion, and other forms of retaliation and require national authorities to inform citizens and provide training for public authorities on how to deal with reports.
The protected areas of interest under the directive include particular procurement, financial services, products and markets and prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, product safety, transport safety, environmental protection, radiation protection and nuclear safety, food and feed safety, health and good animal welfare; public health; consumer protection, privacy and personal data protection and network and information system security, infringements against the financial interests of the European Union, infringement on the internal market, including breaches of competition and state aid rules. Member states may then extend this list and thus the scope of legal regulation of whistleblower’s protections.
All companies with more than 50 employers or with an annual turnover of more than €10 million will have to set up internal procedure to handle whistleblowers’ report. In the public sector, meanwhile, all state and regional administration and municipalities with over 10,000 inhabitants will also be covered by the new law.
Reporting disclosures to the media will be protected if internal or external reporting channels are either not functioning properly or if there is possible signs of collusion. If organisation authorities do not provide feedback or fail to follow up concerns within three to six months of the complaint, whistleblowers are effectively free to go “public” and disclose details to elected officials and campaign groups and post grievances or remarks on social medial platforms.