The European whistleblowing directive: The facts you need to know.

September 8, 2023

We strongly encourage any law that highlights the need for protecting so-called whistleblowers, whose bravery promotes transparency and helps battle wrongdoing. We welcome the EU Whistleblowing Directive and all national derivatives of it.

A call for ethical leadership

All organisations have the responsibility to be compliant with the whistleblowing laws being passed in the EU. One condition of being compliant is facilitating transparency, and this can be best carried out by creating a culture of speaking up within the organisation so that ethical wrongdoing can be detected as early as possible. While being compliant with the Directive and creating a speak up culture might appear similar, sometimes they conflict. This occurs mainly when organisations take strict compliancy with whistleblowing law as the means to generate early transparency. This results in barraging employees and third-party service providers with legal terminology, complicated steps in a formal reporting process, confusing exceptions, complicated scope restrictions, rights and duties and scary labels such as “whistleblower” being attached to people hoping to do right. This does not invite potential reporters to speak up.

Surely, protecting the ‘whistleblower’– if such an unfortunate situation should take place–is something that should be strived for by any means possible. However, it should not be forgotten that not all initiatives of sharing a concern are “whistleblowing” cases. With other words: ‘whistleblowing’ should have a spot somewhere in the broader SpeakUp Programme, but it should not be the centrepiece. If it is, it will have a negative effect on the goal of early transparency.

Are you ready to build a speak up culture within your organisation? First, let’s look at what the EU Whistleblowing Directive entails.

What is the European Whistleblowing Directive?

The EU Whistleblowing Directive (hereafter called the Directive) was developed to provide and promote safe and secure ways for employees and individuals to speak up about misconduct in their work environment. The Directive introduces a three-tier reporting system:

  1. Internal reporting within organisations
  2. External reporting to authorities
  3. Public disclosures to the media

The European Commission, by adopting the Directive, shows recognition of the important role whistleblowers have in the effective detection, investigation, and prosecution of violations of EU law. With the Directive, the European Commission seeks to guarantee a high level of protection for people who report breaches of EU law by setting an EU-wide standards for protection.

When does the EU Whistleblowing Directive go into effect?

EU Member States had until 17 December 2021 to transpose the provisions of the Directive into their national legal and institutional systems.  Currently, 25 countries have adopted the law, while two Member States—Estonia and Poland—are still discussing the process.

While not officially required to transpose the Directive, the UK and Switzerland, who have business subsidiaries and do business with  Member States, might still have reason to be concerned.

The progress of transposition across all 27 Member States is tracked here.

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