On 7 October, EU member states adopted a directive for the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law – also known as whistle-blowers. Member states, including Germany, now have two years to transpose the new rules into their national law.
What is the new “whistle-blowing directive” all about?
The new regulations are introducing safeguards to protect whistle-blowers against suppression and retaliation such as suspension, demotion, intimidation, discrimination or even dismissal. If a person is disadvantaged in violation of this ban, this person can claim compensation. In addition to potential reinstatement and financial compensation, this includes the payment of damages for pain and suffering.
What will change for companies and authorities?
The legal requirements stipulate that companies with more than 50 employees or sales of more than €10 million, and communities with more than 10,000 residents are obliged to establish reliable reporting systems for receiving tips. Whistle-blowers must be informed of the follow-up measures introduced as a consequence of their report within three months.
This reporting system must safeguard the identity of the whistle-blower and enable this person to submit tips in person, by telephone or in writing. In this respect, the directive stipulates that the whistle-blower should first report abuses internally, provided that these also occurred and can be resolved internally. If the person responsible does not introduce any suitable measures in due time, the whistle-blower should turn to the responsible authorities and – in cases where there is a risk to public interest – the public, for example, if the health of the population is in jeopardy. The protection of the whistle-blower must be given priority here.
Who is protected?
The directive grants protective measures to whistle-blowers who work in the private or public sectors and have retrieved information in a professional context that requires legal intervention. This particularly affects employees, civil servants, freelancers, shareholders, board members, interns, volunteers, subcontracted staff and suppliers.
Which areas of the law and society are affected?
The directive’s area of application is limited to information that concerns breaches of Union law in the following areas: procurement law, financial services, product safety, animal welfare, environmental and health protection as well as consumer and data protection. German legislature will expand the whistle-blowing directive’s area of application to include further breaches of national law.
What does the EU directive mean for international companies?
The legal requirements pose major challenges for all companies, particularly medium-sized companies, such that developments must be closely monitored. The new directive has consequences for internal communication in companies as well as human resources, legal and compliance departments. In addition to the establishment of a reporting system, it must also be ensured that existing compliance guidelines are updated to include the new information and that future internal guidelines, processes, instructions and HR-relevant documents are devised, checked and translated to make sure that all employees in a company are well informed, regardless of their location, as per the legal requirement.
As a language service provider with over 25 years of experience in translating compliance guidelines, process documentation, corporate handbooks and audit reports, EVS Translations is here to support you with the multilingual implementation of whistle-blower guidelines in your international branches.
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