[author: Jan Stappers LLM, WhistleB, A NAVEX Company]

What is whistleblowing in the workplace?

Whistleblowing in the workplace is a process by which an employee (the whistleblower) reports to an authorized person some type of wrongdoing, misconduct or illegal act committed by another employee or by the employee. company itself.

“Examples of whistleblowing may include criminal activity, such as theft, or unethical or unfair behavior in the workplace, including racist, sexist or homophobic behavior”, What is the whistleblowing at work? | Health assured. However, personal grievances (including bullying, harassment, discrimination) are not covered by the whistleblower law unless the matter is of public interest.

In the workplace, procedures for handling whistleblowers and whistleblowers may vary from company to company. “Employees can also submit an external report to the appropriate industry or government agency,” Whistleblowing in the Workplace: What Your Board Needs to Know.

However, with the entry into force of a new European directive on the protection of whistleblowers, the rules have become more defined and greater protection for whistleblowers in EU countries has been put in place. square.

The European directive of December 2021 on the protection of whistleblowers

The purpose and who is concerned?

On December 17, 2021, EU member states implemented a new European whistleblower protection directive into their national legislation. The objective of the directive is to provide greater protection in all EU countries to those who wish to report breaches of EU law. Employees who “whistleblower” must now have clear reporting channel options, be protected, and not suffer negative retaliation against them.

EU companies and public bodies with 250 or more employees must run the defined reporting system. From 2023, this will change to include organizations that have 50 or more workers.

However, even if an organization does not meet the criteria, it may still have to comply. Some Member States may choose to freely implement other rules or extend them to smaller organisations, depending on the nature of their activities – in particular if these activities pose risks to public health, climate change or the environment.

Although this is a scheme that should apply to all employees, the directive does not only apply to employees. Independent contractors, workers, volunteers, non-executive directors, shareholders, suppliers and contractors are all covered by the directive.

The new directive also stipulates that sanctions will be applied to “whistleblowers” in the workplace who make false declarations or to any organization which does not correctly apply the rules. “The Directive obliges Member States to impose effective and proportionate sanctions on companies and public bodies which do not adhere to the reporting system, in particular by not respecting the confidentiality of whistleblowers and by hindering attempts to report offences.” The whistleblower directive: key points explained and actions to be taken | Outlook | Reed Smith LLP.

Key requirements

So what are the main requirements of the EU whistleblower protection directive? If an organization now meets the criteria of 250+ employees, it will need to meet several key requirements designed to enable safe reporting, clarity and whistleblower protection. The main requirements include:

  • Safe and accessible reporting channels
  • Ensure workers know when and where to report wrongdoing
  • Protect the confidentiality of whistleblowers and those involved
  • Prompt acknowledgment of reports and feedback within seven days
  • Provide an update on the investigation within three months of the initial report
  • Protect whistleblowers from termination, demotion, or other forms of workplace retaliation
  • Keep a record of reports for no longer than necessary to comply with GDPR data retention rules

Businesses and public bodies can choose to investigate whistleblowers internally Where designate an external body to do so on their behalf.

Five whistleblowing tips board members need to know

It’s not just about following the new rules. Once a whistleblowing procedure has been implemented, it should be continuously monitored to ensure that it is working successfully, is compliant, and meets all employee needs. But how do you know if it works? Below are five tips that senior board members can use to measure the success and challenges of their company’s whistleblower system:

1) If employees don’t raise their concerns, that’s not good news. Just because no reporting is made does not mean that there is no misconduct in the workplace. In fact, 85% of Europeans believe that workers very rarely, if at all, report their concerns. It is much more beneficial to encourage employees to raise their concerns so that they can be identified and resolved sooner, otherwise unchecked situations can quickly escalate into a crisis.

2) Continuation to the first pointtherefore, receiving more reports is generally a good thing. Board members of an organization should be aware that receiving a high number of whistleblowers is generally good for business. Granted, the quality of reporting outweighs the quantity of reporting, but it’s a common misconception that receiving whistleblower reports is a sign of an unhealthy culture and an underperforming business. In fact, organizations that receive a high number of whistleblowers are 46% less likely to receive negative media stories.

3) Employees must trust the whistleblower program. Board members should understand that employees will only raise concerns if they trust the whistleblower program. To achieve this, workers must feel safe from negative retaliation and trust that every report will be promptly and thoroughly investigated. Currently, 80% of workers do not report for fear of legal consequences and 35% of employees do not report because they believe nothing will be done.

4) The more reporting communication channels provided; more reports will be received. Employees will have varying preferences on which reporting methods to use when raising concerns. To maximize employee engagement with a whistleblower program, board members should aim to provide a wide range of reporting channels such as web, phone, mobile, and in-person.

5) An effective whistleblower process can bring significant benefits to the broader compliance program. Companies that implement a successful whistleblowing procedure can gain additional insight into the state of mind of their employees. Organizations that embrace whistleblowing as an important source of information find that managers have better information to make decisions and control risk. Therefore, senior management can create a stronger work culture by linking the whistleblower program to the broader compliance framework.

And after?

Many global common factors, such as the growing awareness of the ethical treatment of people, mental health, COVID-19 and human rights at work, bring the topic of whistleblowing to the fore in the media and for businesses. With the EU’s Whistleblower Protection Directive in place, it’s more important than ever for businesses to implement the new rules, while encouraging employees to do the right thing.

Staying compliant with the directive and other global whistleblower regulations requires the use of incident management software. This solution must be scalable, complete and promoted throughout the organization to be effective.

To learn more about the NAVEX E&C solution and how it can help your business stay compliant with the EU directive and support your whistleblower goals and challenges, click here.

See the original article on Risk & Compliance Matters

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