The reason for the new rules is that whistleblowers can play an important role in uncovering unlawful activities in companies and organisations. However, only few EU countries have rules adequately protecting whistleblowers.
In Denmark, statutory protection for whistleblowers only exists in few sectors, including in financial institutions and auditing firms. The enactment of the Danish Money Laundering Act in 2017 also provided regulation of whistleblower protection in law firms, estate agencies and gambling providers. In these sectors, employees who have filed a report through a whistleblowing scheme enjoy special protection against ”unfavourable treatment” or ”unfavourable consequences”, such as dismissal.
In light of a number of later scandals, including the Cambridge Analytica revelations, the EU has focused on strengthening the rules on protection for whistleblowers. Consequently, the Commission has proposed a directive to protect whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law within various areas, including health, environmental safety, product safety and personal data.
The proposal aims to protect whistleblowers from suffering retaliation based on their reporting. For example, according to these rules the burden of proof will be reversed in cases where a whistleblower claims to have suffered retaliation. The rules also provide access to free advice and adequate remedies in such situations.
In addition, it is proposed to impose a number of obligations on employers to implement reporting channels ensuring confidentiality. Such systems must include reporting channels within and outside the organisation, and – in special circumstances – reporting to competent authorities and public/media reporting must also be possible. Further, the Commission's proposal involves an obligation to respond to and follow up on whistleblowers’ reports within three months.
It is proposed that the rules will apply to companies with more than 50 employees or with a turnover of more than EUR 10 million. It is also proposed that the rules will apply to all state and regional administrations and municipalities with over 10,000 inhabitants.
The proposed Directive is a minimum standards directive, and for this reason the Directive will only set the minimum standards for how member states are to design their national provisions so as to comply with the Directive. If the Directive is adopted, member states must adjust their national legislation in accordance with the rules of the Directive by 15 May 2021.
Norrbom Vinding follows the process and will report on any new developments.