EU Council of Ministers adopts the Directive on whistleblower protection
On Monday, 7 October, the Council approved the new Directive intended to afford more effective protection for whistleblowers. Poland now has two years to implement it, and companies and institutions – two years to adjust their procedures and to change their mentalities. This task may prove to be more difficult than adapting to GDPR. The gist of the new rules is that entities which ignore – or repress – whistleblowers do so at their peril.
Today, the Council of Ministers approved in the course of a session of the Justice and Internal Affairs Council in Luxembourg the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of persons reporting on breaches of Union law, or the Whistleblower Directive for short, intended to ensure a common minimum standard of protection for whistleblowers in all EU jurisdictions. Frans Timmermans, First Vice President, declared that he welcomes this development in that “whistleblowers are courageous people who dare to bring illegal activities to light and stand up on their own to protect the public from wrongdoing.”. Věra Jourová, the Justice, Consumers and Equality Commissioner, added that whistleblowers should not be penalised for doing the right thing, and she called on the EU Member States to implement the Directive as soon as possible, not necessarily waiting until elapse of the two-year deadline (counted from publication in the Official Journal).
The objective of the new rules is to guarantee that whistleblowers benefit from safe channels for reporting violations of the law, and that they become a key source of information for investigative journalists. In the case of Poland, considerable progress has been made towards enacting some of the requisite laws – the legislative Act regarding liability of collective entities is awaiting its first reading in the Sejm, and the government is preparing a draft Act regarding transparency of public affairs. Yet lawyers note that these may not suffice, in that, in light of the Directive, harassment of whistleblowers ought to incur criminal sanctions, and the burden of proof in demonstrating that no such harassment occurred ought to rest with the entity / institution employing the whistleblower, not the whistleblower herself. Moreover, a whistleblower who suffers repression or is forced to change her job as a consequence of stepping forward with information shall benefit from legal recourse. (...)
The full text of this article (in Polish) is available at www.prawo.pl