EU Whistleblower Protection Directive FAQ Round Up

By 17 December 2021, EU Member States were required to transpose the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive into their national law. The Directive’s purpose is to provide stronger protection across all EU countries for people who report breaches of EU law or ethical misconduct. Employees who decide to file a report must now be provided with clear reporting channels and be protected from retaliation. Keep reading for more on the latest EU Directive FAQs.

EU Whistleblower Protection Directive FAQs

The Focus and Location Requirements of Whistleblowing Managers

As few organisations have a position dedicated exclusively to whistleblowing management (the Whistleblowing manager), they need to entrust that responsibility to an existing role. Ethics counsel, HR managers or Compliance managers typically manage a company’s whistleblowing channel(s) and procedures. Although some companies may choose to combine the roles of the whistleblowing manager with that of a Legal counsel or Data Protection Officer, it is important to avoid potential conflicts of interest (COI) – especially when a whistleblower raises a report around topics  in which the whistleblowing manager has a personal interest.

The EU Whistleblower Protection Directive does not state if a whistleblowing manager needs to be local to the business they are employed with. There is a set of general characteristics which are applicable as to what is needed to be a successful whistleblowing manager. This set of criteria may have implications as to where a whistleblowing manager can be placed or located for certain companies, depending on their internal structure and industry sector. The Directive states whistleblowing managers need to be independent, impartial, confidential whilst executing their duties, uphold the secrecy of information and most importantly, avoid, when possible, conflicts of interest. In addition, a whistleblowing manager must be knowledgeable in all areas and types of whistleblowing reports, which can be challenging when the amount and vast range of potential topics are considered.

Communication Guidelines for Whistleblowers and Those Under Investigation

Many organisations struggle to lay out guidelines and decide upon the appropriate level of communication needed with whistleblowers and people under investigation.

Currently, it is not per se mandatory to inform a person they are under investigation if a report is made involving them. The beginning of an investigation should especially remain confidential to stop any false alarms being raised and to ensure that the investigation is effective. Keeping reports confidential reduces undue stress amongst the workforce and allows investigators to gather evidence on the case with ease. However, towards the closing of the case, it may be possible for the person reported to give their version of events – and therefore, be presented with some of the uncovered facts. Informing an employee of reports raised against them will also allow them to prepare for any decisions made once the report is concluded.

In terms of general workplace communication, any anonymous statistics about the company’s whistleblowing channels or raised reports can be openly shared with employees, investors and stakeholders alike. Sharing general statistics demonstrates transparency, dedication to addressing whistleblower reports, and works to support employee engagement efforts – it also encourages potential whistleblowers to speak up against witnessed wrongdoing or misconduct. Reporting statistics can provide stakeholders and company investors with a clearer picture of what is going on inside an organisation, the types of reports being made, and what whistleblowing channels have the greatest impact. It is not always the number of reports raised that matters, but the companies’ efforts in showing the quality of the reports and what is being done to address them.

Recommendations on Reporting Channels and Managing Multi-Country Hotlines

The available reporting channels for a whistleblower should depend on the preferred means of communication of the reporting person, the type of company they wish to make the report about, whether the company is within the private or public sector, and the topic of the report. However, as 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 useful set of guidance is provided by ISO37002:2021 - Whistleblowing management systems. Various whistleblowing management handbooks recently appeared at national level.

For external reporting, the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive does not state which national authorities’ whistleblowers can or should refer to. Organisations should note that they have the obligation to provide easily accessible information about external reporting, instead of forcing them to turn to official governmental websites for external reporting guidance and contact details of the relevant 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 whistleblowing and reporting hotlines worldwide:

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