Supporting People who Speak Out

European Parliament takes final position on the proposal for a Whistleblowing Directive

Presented by the European Commission in April 2018, the proposal for a Directive to protect European whistleblowers is currently working its way through the European institutions. If adopted, the Directive would provide minimum standards for the protection of employees reporting certain breaches and misconduct in the public interest. The text that has been agreed upon in the European Parliament’s Legislative Committee on November 20 reflects many of the leading international standards and would elevate basic protection measures for whistleblowers in most Member States. The report proposes:

  • Broad coverage of reportable wrongdoing in line with the Union’s mandate, including:
    • public procurement;
    • financial services, prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing;
    • product safety;
    • transport safety;
    • protection of the environment;
    • nuclear safety;
    • food and feed safety, animal health and welfare;
    • public health;
    • consumer protection;
    • protection of privacy and personal data, and security of network and information systems;
    • employment, working conditions, workers’ rights and the principle of equal opportunities and treatment between men and women at work
  • Broad coverage of employees in both the private and the public sector acting in good faith, including freelancers, contractors, volunteers, interns, former and future employees. With this, the EU would increase legal certainty for whistleblowers and acknowledge modern employment conditions.
  • Protection for persons assisting whistleblowers, such as colleagues and journalists. Furthermore, the EU acknowledges the important role of trade unions as mediators and contact points.
  • Establishment of internal channels for public bodies and private sector entities employing more than 250 people. These would relieve SMBs while fostering a culture of resolving problems internally.
  • Establishing responsibilities to ensure that information about how to make a report is easily available. This supports efficient application of the Directive.
  • Setting standards for internal channels and regulators on whistleblower confidentiality, responding to reports and record-keeping. Standardized guidelines increase legal certainty for companies and protect individuals.
  • Protection of anonymous disclosures. This provision makes sure that important information that was provided anonymously does not get overlooked.
  • Comprehensive protections from retaliation, including legal action, disadvantage in the workplace, attacks on reputation, blacklisting and loss of security clearances. In providing broad protection from retaliation, employees are more likely to be encouraged to speak up for the benefit of everybody.
  • The introduction of “effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties” for those retaliating against whistleblowers, which constitutes an effective, practical disincentive for retaliatory actions.
  • Reversing the burden of proof in cases of retaliation, and obliging employers to prove that actions against a whistleblower were not taken in response to the making of a report. This provisions prevents a chilling effect and ensures effectiveness of the Directive.
  • The right for whistleblowers to be informed about the progress of investigations.
  • An obligation to provide advice and support for whistleblowers via an information centre or or a “clearly identitfied independent administrative authority”. With this, the EU would establish increased legal certainty for whistleblowers and ensure procedures are followed correctly.

In the light of this carefully negotiated agreement presenting a promising outlook for whistleblowers, we call upon the European institutions to support the measures proposed in JURI’s draft report. In particular, we ask the Romanian delegation to the Council to consider the important role of whistleblowers for the fight against corruption as well as the promotion of a democratic society. We ask them to facilitate the passing of a Directive modelled according to international standards before the European elections in May 2019.