EU Agrees Rules To Protect Whistleblowers From Retaliation


European Union lawmakers announced on Tuesday that they have agreed to adopt rules designed to encourage individuals to blow the whistle on companies that breach the bloc’s laws, including measures to allow employees to report information confidentially and protect whistleblowers against reprisals.

The European Parliament and the Council said they have reached a provisional agreement to implement bloc-wide rules that will protect whistleblowers when they report breaches of EU law in areas including money laundering, tax fraud and data protection.

The proposed measures will allow employees to report directly to their company or a national regulator by creating internal and external reporting channels. Lawmakers hope to ensure that workers who shine a light on wrongdoing are safe and that the information they report is kept confidential.

“We have had to fight to get a final text that meets expectations: whistleblowers must be protected, whilst choosing the best means to be heard and to defend the interests of the citizens,” French MEP Virginie Roziere said on Tuesday. The provisional rules must be agreed by member states’ ambassadors and Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs.

Politicians say they want protect the kind of informants who exposed wrongdoing at Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy accused of misusing personal data during the Brexit referendum in Britain and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016. But whistleblower protection is fragmented across Europe — only 10 member states, including France and Italy, provide full legal protection to employees who report breaches.

“We should protect whistleblowers from being punished, sacked, demoted or sued in court for doing the right thing for society,” Frans Timmermans, commission vice president, said. “These new, EU-wide whistleblowers’ protection rules do exactly that and will make sure they can report in a safe way on breaches of EU law in many areas. This will help tackle fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance and damage to people’s health and the environment.”

Under the proposals, member states will provide employees with details on how to report information. They must also provide legal, financial and psychological support, the Parliament and council said.

A whistleblower will still enjoy protection if he or she discloses information publicly, the authorities agreed. Individuals will be able to disclose their allegations if they believe a company’s actions pose an imminent danger to the public interest or if they do not feel that appropriate action has been taken after they made their report.

Parliament and council had been at loggerheads about how swiftly whistleblowers should be able to bring their allegations into the public domain if they want to enjoy the new legal protections.

The lawmakers said that the agreed text explicitly prohibits companies from taking retaliatory measures against those who blow the whistle. The proposals will introduce safeguards to stop whistleblowers being suspended, demoted or intimidated by their bosses. Journalists, colleagues and relatives that help whistleblowers will also be protected.

The European Commission, which proposed the rules in April 2018, is encouraging member states to draw up frameworks to protect whistleblowers.

The measures also cover breaches of EU law in areas including transport safety, environmental protection and public health. The commission said that it is also encouraging EU countries to extend the rules to other areas.


This article was first published on 12th March by Law360