European Commission unveils whistleblower protection

European Commission unveils whistleblower protection”

The EBU, the European Federation of Journalists and News Media Europe believe that some wrongdoings are so serious that the public has a right to know, irrespective of the availability of reporting mechanisms.

"The European Commission has produced an ambitious proposal, which will need to be strengthened to ensure that whistleblowers, no matter who they are or where they work, will be protected", said Nicholas Aiossa, policy officer of Transparency International EU.

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: "The new whistleblowers' protection rules will be a game changer".

It said that recent scandals like Luxleaks, the Panama Papers and the ongoing Cambridge Analytica revelations showed that whistleblowers can play an important role in uncovering unlawful activities that damage the public interest and the welfare of citizens and society.

Whilst most of the minimum standards will sound familiar to global employers (for example, the need for internal reporting channels), the Commission's proposal does take a much wider view on who should benefit from whistleblower protection compared to what we usually see. All state, regional administrations and municipalities with over 10,000 inhabitants will also be covered by the new law.

Announcing the move, the Commission said protection for whistleblowers across the European Union is "fragmented and uneven", with only ten member states - including Ireland - guaranteeing full protection for whistleblowers.

Prevention of retaliation and effective protection: all forms of retaliation are forbidden and should be sanctioned. Furthermore, if whistle blowers suffer retaliation, they should have easily accessible advice free of charge. The burden of proof will be reversed in such cases, so that the person or organisation must prove that they are not acting in retaliation against the whistleblower. As drafted, this could extend whistleblower protection to "gig" workers and the self-employed.

To prevent abusive reports and unjustified reputational damage, the new legislation will stick to the presumption of innocence of those affected by a report, the press release stressed.

That said, the Commission's move to provide greater protection for whistleblowers mirrors the key finding of our November 2017 whistleblowing survey that although whistleblowing culture within businesses seems to be moving in the right direction, there is certainly room for improvement if businesses are to benefit fully from the early intervention opportunity offered by the whistleblower. The co-legislators (European Parliament, Council) will separately discuss the proposal and make amendments.

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