The Eurocadres blog
The EU whistleblower directive: the run for levelling the field in our countries has begun
The new EU directive on the protection of whistleblowers will enter into force 16 December. It is the first positive directive in five years and the objective is to uphold and support the rule of law in all European countries alike.
As a trade union, we see the whistleblowing platform as a valuable tool in the responsible business practices toolbox. It enables businesses and organsiations to build trust, demonstrate transparency and show employees, trade unions and other stakeholders that they are serious about doing the right thing and doings things right.
Less than half of all EU member states have whistleblower protection legislation in place and this will luckily increase to all member states with the new directive.
Less than half of all EU member states have whistleblower protection legislation in place and this will luckily increase to all member states with the new directive. Up till the directive is transposed in all EU member states, many potential whistleblowers have faced a real risk of retaliation. The new directive addresses this fear, stating that “the importance of providing balanced and effective whistleblower protection is increasingly acknowledged both at European and international level.” There is a two-year window of opportunity for EU Member States to take the global lead on protecting whistleblowers as they transpose the directive into national law and will set a standard for all EU countries.
Since January 1st 2017, Sweden has had its own whistleblower protection law that also protects whistleblowers in the private sector, where Unionen has its members; a first in our country. The positive aspects of the law is that it covers all employees, also external partners such as consultants, subcontractors etc. The law provides protection for various types of reprisals including bad reviews, bullying and scolding, and the burden of proof is on the employer, which is positive.
The positive aspects of the law is that it covers all employees, also external partners such as consultants, subcontractors etc.
However, there are several aspects of the law that we will work to improve through the transposition process. Protection is only guaranteed for “serious wrongdoings”, which is a highly set requirement and only covers crimes with prison sentences or corresponding. We would like to see that protection is guaranteed for reporting all types of wrongdoings, as it is in the interest of the employer to be aware of all wrongdoings that are going on it the company, even minor ones.
Furthermore, in the current law, reporting is recommended to be internal first, that means to the employer. In order to report externally, it requires that there is a legitimate reason for doing so and that the whistleblower has good reasons for his/her claims on wrongdoings. We would like to see that the whistleblower has the choice to use the channel for reporting that he/she sees as most appropriate even in cases where there is no immediate danger for destruction of proof or other immediate dangers. The current law does not require professional secrecy for the recipient of a report on wrongdoings. It is only provided when the report is made to the media.
It is important that national laws really provide a level playing field that makes whistleblowers safer.
The transposition in each of our countries is as important as the success with the directive. It is important that national laws really provide a level playing field that makes whistleblowers safer. The whistleblower protection directive includes a wide array of EU laws that whistleblowers might report on and member states are free to extend these rules to other areas and to national laws. It goes without saying that it is very important that trade unions are a part of the implementation process.
As a conclusion, we would recommend the following in the transposition process:
- No hierarchy between internal and external reporting channels
- Allow legal entities, such as trade unions and NGO´s, not only individuals, to be whistleblowers
- Widen the scope and include at least working conditions and health and safety
- Guarantee the right to seek advice from a trade union
- Guarantee the right to be represented by a trade union
Eurocadres has been conducting a set of trainings together with Protect under the project "Whistleblowing in European workplaces", funded by the European Commission. Ann-Katrin Dolium participated in the training in Paris 6-7.11.2019. The next one will be organised in Belgrade 23-24 April 2020 and is open for participants from our member organisations.