Whistleblower Directive – Initiative of the EU Commission to protect those who report violations of Union law
In any organization, private or public, large or small, illegal conduct and violations of the law may occur. They can take a variety of forms, including corruption, fraud, business malpractice, and negligence. And failure to address them can result in severe damage to the public interest. People who work for an organization or interact with it in the course of their professional duties are frequently the first to learn of such occurrences and are therefore in a privileged position to alert those who can solve the issue. Whistleblowers, i.e., informant who report (within the organization or to an outside authority) or disclose (to the public) information on a wrongdoing obtained in a work-related context, aid in preventing damage and detecting threats or harm to the public interest that might otherwise remain concealed.
For these reasons, on April 23, 2018, the European Commission presented a package of initiatives including a Proposal for Directive on the protection of persons reporting breaches of Union law and a Communication, establishing a comprehensive legal framework for whistleblower protection to safeguard the public interest at the European level, establishing easily accessible reporting channels, highlighting the obligation to maintain confidentiality and the prohibition of retaliation, and establishing a comprehensive legal framework for whistleblower protection to safeguard the public interest at the European level, establishing easily accessible
The Directive – (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons who report contraventions of Union law – was adopted on 23 October 2019 and went into effect on 16 December 2019. Member States had until 21 December 2021 to implement it into domestic law.
The European Commission referred eight member states to the European Court of Justice on February 15 for failing to transpose and notify the national measures transposing Directive (EU) 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law into their legal framework.
According to the EU, the eight member states of Estonia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, and Spain have failed to transpose the Directive and have not provided adequate responses to previous notices issued by the European Commission.
In January 2022, the EU Commission sent formal notice letters to twenty-four Member States for failing to fully transpose and inform the Commission of the transposition measures by the deadline. In addition, the Commission sent 15 Member States reasoned opinions in July 2022 and four Member States reasoned opinions in September 2022 for failing to communicate measures fully transposing the directive.
Until a member state passes its own whistleblower law, the EU Directive’s whistleblower protections do not apply in that country.
Even in countries where whistleblower laws have been enacted in accordance with the EU Directive, whistleblower advocates see problems. As of February 2022, Cyprus, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, and Sweden had passed whistleblower laws.
None of these seven national laws specifically protect employees from retaliation or compensates them for lost wages and other damages if they are fired or demoted. Currently, these laws do not provide guidance on how an employee may apply for and obtain whistleblower status. And the laws provide almost no guidance for the courts, which will be the venue for many cases involving whistleblower retaliation and unfair termination.