The European Union has approved a directive that offers protection and legal guarantees to whistleblowers who call attention to illegal or harmful activities in their workplace, following a vote in the Parliament on Tuesday.
The legislation, which was already been approved by the Council of Ministers and the Commission, was adopted with 591 votes in favour, 29 against and 33 abstentions. It establishes new rules at a European level to protect whistleblowers who reveal violations of EU law in areas such as public procurement, financial services, money laundering, nuclear safety and public health, among others areas.
To ensure the safety of potential informants and the confidentiality of the information disclosed, the new rules will allow for a three-tier reporting system: whistleblowers can raise their concerns internally, they can go directly to the competent national or EU authorities, or if “no appropriate action” is taken, or in cases of “clear or imminent danger to the public interest…” they can publicly disclose the information via the media.
In order to facilitate the first two methods companies with more than 50 employees and public bodies will be required to put in place channels and procedures for whistleblowers to come forward safely.
The law explicitly prohibits reprisals and introduces safeguards to prevent those who make a report being suspended, demoted and intimidated or face other forms of retaliation. Those who assist informants will also be protected.
Member States should ensure that whistleblowers have free access to complete and independent information and advice on the available procedures and remedies, as well as legal assistance during the proceedings. During judicial proceedings, informants can receive financial and psychological support.
Rapporteur Virginie Rozière (S&D, FR) said: “Recent scandals such as LuxLeaks, Panama Papers and Football leaks have helped to shine a light on the great precariousness that whistle-blowers suffer today. On the eve of European elections, Parliament has come together to send a strong signal that it has heard the concerns of its citizens, and pushed for robust rules guaranteeing their safety and that of those persons who choose to speak out”.
The law must now also be formally approved by EU ministers. Member States will then have two years to comply with the rules.