HR Signal: The EU Whistleblowing Directive

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HR Signal: Find out your company’s secrets before others do


We also give you access to our HR Signal platform as a useful tool to guide you through the entire process of adapting your company to the Whistleblower Protection Directive requirements, focusing on implementing and updating the existing whistleblowing procedure.

We are well aware that the prevailing cause of breaches is usually human error. But here at PCS | Littler it is our job to know people. By working closely with Littler, we can benefit from the knowledge and experience of lawyers from other jurisdictions.

HR Signal is a multidimensional knowledge platform for entrepreneurs looking to implement or update their existing whistleblowing procedures and who are interested in HR compliance. HR Signal provides access to articles, webinars, consultations and tools supporting the implementation of proper procedures. More: here.

Whistleblower Protection Directive

By 17 December 2021, Directive 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law, called the Whistleblower Protection Directive, should be transposed into the Polish law. The Directive aims to set uniform minimum whistleblowing standards for all the EU member countries.

Currently, there is no common European legal framework for whistleblowing. The provisions of the Directive cover, among other things, the procedure for reporting breaches and the protection for persons reporting them.

The Directive aims to extend the new obligations to entrepreneurs employing 50 or more people. Employers with 250 or more employees people will be bound by the new regulations from 17 December 2021. By way of exception, the deadline for imposing new obligations on entrepreneurs employing between 50 and 249 people can be postponed until 17 December 2023 by the national legislation. However, until the Polish regulations are enacted, it is impossible to determine whether such an exception will be made. Therefore, smaller businesses should also consider introducing whistleblowing procedures.

The draft on transposing the Whistleblower Protection Directive into the Polish legal system has not yet been published. You can follow the progress of the legislative work on our website here.

What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is the reporting of any breaches that may be taking place in a private company or public organisation.

The list of breaches that can be reported is virtually unlimited. It includes management malpractice, workplace bullying, harassment, discrimination, bribery, irregularities in accounting for expenses, restrictions of competition, conflicts of interest, public procurement irregularities or infringements on environmental regulations.

We want to help you establish mechanisms to ensure that you find out about these irregularities before your competitors or the relevant authorities do.

One of the most high-profile whistleblower cases in recent years is that of Edward Snowden, who leaked the details on how the US National Security Agency (NSA) has been surveilling US citizens and other countries through the PRISM programme. Edward Snowden has fled abroad and currently resides in Russia. Another example is Bradley Binkerfeld, who revealed details of tax avoidance by US citizens using accounts at Swiss bank UBS. He reached a settlement with the US whistleblowing office and was awarded $104 million. In Poland, one of the forerunners of whistleblowing was Bożena Łopacka, who disclosed labour law breaches in one of the discount store chains several years ago.

What does this look like in practice?

The ideal whistleblowing scenario assumes that any employee who notices wrongdoing in the organisation will inform the designated person, regardless of whether the report concerns a colleague, supervisor or board member. An investigation will try to establish what happened, and anyone found liable may have to face legal consequences, including disciplinary action.

The whistleblower, on the other hand, will not suffer any negative repercussions.

We will work with you towards convincing your employees that whistleblowing is a duty and a source of pride, rather than snitching, denunciation and embarrassment. We will introduce you to systems and procedures to foster and encourage the right attitudes.

Does this scenario work in practice? Not necessarily. It is often the case that employees do not know who and how to report irregularities. Especially if it concerns their immediate superior or a board member. Many companies fail to provide safe, anonymous reporting channels, which makes potential whistleblowers afraid to talk about what they witness. This is compounded by a culture that stigmatises those who speak out about illegal behaviour. Regrettably, whistleblowers are sometimes referred to as snitches, double-crossers or informers by their colleagues.

All these organisational deficiencies and the cultural stigmatisation mean that a large number of reports do not land where they should. What are the consequences? Breaches are a cost for entrepreneurs. Firstly, in purely financial terms, they generate losses. Secondly, in terms of image; no one wants to be associated with illegal or unethical activities. Thirdly, the company loses out in the eyes of honest employees who, for various reasons, have to function in such an environment and their level of commitment and identification with the organisation decreases.

What next?

The solution to the problems described above is to introduce a comprehensive whistleblowing procedure and to make sure that the employees of a given organisation are willing and not afraid to use it. A whistleblowing procedure is not only the document itself but also everything that it encompasses, which is, above all, a change in the culture of how whistleblowers are perceived and a real guarantee that reporting wrongdoing will not have negative consequences.

PCS | Littler will guide you through the pitfalls of investigation with the highest standards of confidentiality. We will benefit from the experience of Littler – the largest employment law practice in the world.

It is important to remember that breaches can occur in any organisation, no matter its size. It is therefore worthwhile for every entrepreneur to carefully consider the subject of whistleblowing.

We firmly believe that thanks to HR Signal, many businesses will appreciate the benefits of whistleblowing for their organisation and decide to implement or update their current whistleblowing procedures.