Protection file

EU Whistleblower Protection Directive FAQs | NAVEX

[author: Jan Stappers LLM]

Before December 17, 2021, EU member states were required to transpose the EU whistleblower protection directive into national law. The purpose of the directive is to provide stronger protection in all EU countries to people who report breaches of EU law or ethical misconduct. Employees who decide to file a report must now have clear reporting channels and be protected from retaliation. Keep reading to learn more about the latest EU directive FAQs.

EU Whistleblower Protection Guidelines FAQ

Concentration and location requirements of whistleblower handlers

As few organizations have a position dedicated exclusively to whistleblower management (the whistleblower manager), they must assign this responsibility to an existing role. Ethics counsellors, human resources managers, or compliance officers typically manage a company’s whistleblower channels and procedures. Although some companies may choose to combine the roles of whistleblower officer with that of legal counsel or data protection officer, it is important to avoid potential conflicts of interest (COI) – by particularly when a whistleblower raises a report on matters in which the whistleblower manager has a personal interest.

The European directive on the protection of whistleblowers does not specify whether a responsible whistleblower must be local to the company for which he is employed. There is a set of general characteristics that apply to what is needed to be an effective whistleblower manager. This set of criteria may have implications as to where a whistleblower manager may be placed or located for certain companies, depending on their internal structure and industry. The directive stipulates that whistleblower managers must be independent, impartial, confidential in the exercise of their functions, respect the secrecy of information and, above all, avoid, as far as possible, conflicts of interest. Additionally, a whistleblower manager must be knowledgeable in all areas and types of whistleblower reporting, which can be challenging when the sheer quantity and wide range of potential topics are considered.

Communication Guidelines for Whistleblowers and Investigated Persons

Many organizations struggle with setting guidelines and deciding the appropriate level of communication needed with whistleblowers and those under investigation.

Currently, it is not per se mandatory to inform a person that they are under investigation if a report is made concerning them. The start of an investigation must in particular remain confidential to avoid any false alarms and guarantee the effectiveness of the investigation. Keeping reports confidential reduces undue stress among the workforce and allows investigators to easily gather evidence on the case. However, towards the close of the case, it may be possible for the reported person to give their version of events – and thus be presented with some of the facts not covered. Informing an employee of the reports raised against them will also allow them to be prepared for any decisions made once the report is closed.

In terms of general workplace communication, any anonymous statistics on company whistleblower channels or reports raised can be openly shared with employees, investors and stakeholders. Sharing general statistics demonstrates transparency, commitment to addressing whistleblower reports and helps support employee engagement efforts – it also encourages potential whistleblowers to report wrongdoing or misconduct which they witnessed. Reporting statistics can provide stakeholders and corporate investors with a clearer picture of what is happening within an organization, what types of reports are being made, and which whistleblower channels are having the greatest impact. It’s not always the number of reports that counts, but the efforts of companies to show the quality of reports and what is being done to address them.

Recommendations on reporting channels and management of multi-country hotlines

The reporting channels available to a whistleblower should depend on the reporting person’s preferred means of communication, the type of business they wish to report on, whether the business is in the private or public sector, and the subject of the report. However, since protecting and facilitating whistleblower reports is still a new concept, best practices for the right types of reporting channels and multi-country hotlines are still evolving. A set of useful guidance is provided by ISO37002:2021 – Whistleblower Management Systems. Various whistleblower management manuals have recently emerged at the national level.

For external reports, the European directive on the protection of whistleblowers does not specify to which national authorities whistleblowers can or must refer. Organizations should note that they have an obligation to provide easily accessible information on external reporting, rather than requiring them to turn to official government websites for advice on external reporting and contact details for competent authorities .

To learn more about how NAVEX can support your whistleblowing goals and help you comply with the requirements of the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive, click here. To learn more about whistleblowers and reporting hotlines around the world:

Download the 2022 NAVEX Hotline Incident Benchmark Report

See the original article on Risk & Compliance Matters