How to comply with the EU Whistleblowing Directive: A simple 8-step guide

Understanding the EU Whistleblower Directive is critical for organisations striving for compliance and transparency. This guide provides practical steps to align with the Directive.

Lamia Mela
March 26, 2024
5 min read

What is the EU Whistleblowing Directive?

Since 2018, the EU Whistleblowing Directive has been setting a legal framework for protecting whistleblowers at a European level, aiming to standardise incident reporting and replace the previous mix of rules with a unified structure.

The Directive was set up to bring order to the varying rules on whistleblowing across the EU, providing clear protections and processes to support potential reporters, especially third-party contractors faced with diverse regulations.

What's new with the directive?

The Directive clearly identifies who is a whistleblower and sets a minimum compliance standard for organisations, mandating formalised reporting procedures and emphasising true transparency. Get up to date information here.

8 step guide to comply with EU Whistleblowing Directive

Your 8-step compliance guide to the EU Whistleblowing Directive

1. Understand the Directive's importance: The Directive aims to protect whistleblowers across the EU, setting new standards for reporting breaches of EU law.

2. Recognise everyone involved: The Directive expands protection to workers, contractors, suppliers, shareholders, job applicants, and even relatives of the whistleblower who may face retaliation.

3. Create internal reporting channels: Organisations must set up effective internal channels for reporting concerns, although entities with fewer than 50 employees are exempt.

4. Guide for external reporting: Systems for reporting to external authorities should be in place, with clear guidance provided to whistleblowers on the process.

5. Ensure prompt responses: Transparently communicate the follow-up process to reporters, acknowledge reports within seven days, and provide feedback within three months.

6. Implement protective measures: Adhere to the Directive's protective measures to prevent retaliation against whistleblowers.

7. Educate for awareness: Make sure information about reporting externally is accessible and that staff are aware of the Directive's implications.

8. Monitor local laws: The Directive sets minimum standards, but local laws may extend protections further, so stay informed on national transpositions of the Directive.

What are the risks of not complying?

Non-compliance with the EU Whistleblower Directive carries legal penalties varying by Member State, but beyond that, it's about maintaining control over internal misconduct. A robust internal reporting system is advised to catch issues early and limit the need for external reporting.

You can read the progress on transposition across all 27 member states here.

Beyond the Directive: championing a transparent, ethical culture

While the EU Whistleblower Directive lays out the essential legal framework, it is ultimately the responsibility of organisations to cultivate a culture of transparency and integrity. SpeakUp's mission aligns seamlessly with this directive's ethos, empowering organisations to nurture a culture of strong ethics where misconduct isn't just caught early—it's potentially prevented altogether.

By adopting SpeakUp's whistleblower tools, organisations can assure their teams that their concerns will be heard and addressed, fostering a proactive stance on compliance and ethical conduct. This is not merely about meeting a standard; it's about setting a new one, where every voice is valued, and every concern has the power to enact positive change.

If you have questions about the EU Whistleblower Directive or need assistance in setting up compliant reporting channels, SpeakUp consultants are available to provide expert advice tailored to your organisation's needs.

Frequently asked questions

1. Which reporting channel is best suited to companies?

For optimal security and accessibility, digital whistleblowing systems are recommended. They should be intuitive, protect whistleblower identity, be certified for data protection and IT security, and host servers in legally compliant locations. International companies should ensure 24/7 accessibility worldwide. Furthermore, they should be available in the native language of the reporter, with written and oral reporting options in place.

2. Will my employees be able to report outside of the organisation under the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive?

Yes, employees can report externally. The Directive introduces a three-tier system: internal channels, external channels set up by Member States, and public disclosures under certain conditions. The Directive encourages using internal channels first but does not mandate it.

3. Will the rules be the same in every EU country?

The Directive sets minimum EU-wide standards, but Member States can go beyond these. They may exempt smaller municipalities and entities or set their own penalties. There will be a uniform framework with potential national deviations, like GDPR compliance.

4. How do I ensure that employees come to me first with reports?

While the Directive encourages internal reporting first, it's not obligatory. Build trust within your organisation to encourage internal reporting. Evaluate your communication materials and training programs to make them more effective.

5. Who will be protected under the Directive?

Protection is granted to those who acquired information on breaches in a work-related context and believe it to be true and within the Directive's scope. This includes current and former employees, job applicants, volunteers, trainees, the self-employed, shareholders, persons working under contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, facilitators, and even relatives or colleagues of the reporter if they face retaliation.

6. Is SpeakUp compliant with the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive?

Yes, SpeakUp is designed to help organisations comply with the Directive's requirements for a secure and confidential internal reporting channel. However, organisations should also ensure their other internal channels and follow-up procedures meet the Directive's minimum standards.

7. What does the Directive mandate regarding penalties and protections for whistleblowers?

The Directive mandates penalties for false reports and retaliation against whistleblowers. Member States determine the penalties. If a whistleblower faces retaliation after making a legitimate report, the employer must prove it wasn't retaliatory. Compensation measures for whistleblowers are also required.

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