The fact that whistleblowers will be protected by law even if they report concerns externally is causing confusion, so what does external reporting mean under the EU Whistleblower Protection directive?
First and foremost, the directive is clear that internal reporting, i.e. that which is controlled and followed up by the organisation, is preferred as the first port of call for a whistleblower. However, external reporting channels must also be available. A whistleblower may use either channel at his or her own discretion, and they may choose to report externally if they are not confident in the internal processes of the organisation.
For EU Member States, what does external reporting mean under the EU Whistleblower Protection directive?
When it comes to the obligations regarding external channels, the Directive places the onus on EU Member States. In particular:
- It requires Member States to establish a competent authority to receive whistleblower reports.
- The competent authorities must provide clear information explaining to citizens the external reporting options available to them, they must ensure the security and confidentiality of the reporting channel, appoint a person responsible for handling the reports, and allow reports to be received in writing or verbally.
- Procedures and training on how to deal with whistleblowers must be provided to public authorities.
For the media, what does external reporting mean under the EU Whistleblower Protection directive?
- In the event that reports are not processed by the relevant authority within the permitted timeframe, the whistleblower may report suspected breaches of EU law to the media.
- The whistleblower will be legally protected and journalists will not be able to divulge the identity of whistleblower sources.
For companies, what does external reporting mean under the EU Whistleblower Protection directive?
- The private sector has almost no obligations regarding the matter as the responsibility to manage externally reported whistleblowing reports falls entirely on Member States.
- However, under the Directive companies should inform employees that they have the right to report externally if they prefer.
The best way to prevent risks and increase the chances of receiving whistleblower reports in a timely manner is to establish secure internal reporting channels, as defined by the EU Directive. In an environment where the whistleblower has the right to decide whether to report internally or externally, it is in a company's best interests to simplify reporting and create an atmosphere of trust internally to avoid any further escalation of the whistleblower's concern to an external authority or to the media.
Practically for companies, this is the essence of what external reporting means under the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.