The European Commission has launched a public consultation asking for views on protection for whistleblowers.
At present, only a few member states have comprehensive - or at least substantial - whistleblower protection. The majority tend to have provisions scattered across different laws, leaving significant gaps in protection.
As such, the lack of effective whistleblower protection in one EU country negatively affects the interests of other member states and the EU as a whole. For instance, it can dissuade employees of a multinational company from reporting wrongdoings taking place in a branch of the company in another EU country or which concern the public interest on an EU scale.
At the same time, lack of adequate whistleblower protection may discourage the disclosure of wrongdoing and illegal activities. It can thus have a negative impact on the functioning of various EU policies. This includes, for instance, compliance with rules on procurement, state aid, implementation of structural funds, environmental protection, and competition and investment - and ultimately on the proper functioning of the internal market.
Individuals who have genuine concerns should therefore feel safe to raise these concerns either by reporting internally within the organisation so that the employer has the opportunity to address the issue; or to a regulatory body the employer does not or cannot be reasonably expected to act on the report. They might even report their concerns to the public, where other appropriate reporting channels do not exist or have proven unsuccessful.
The aim of the consultation therefore is to collect information, views and experiences of protection for whistleblowers; on the elements that are important for effective protection; on problems arising both at national and EU level from gaps and weaknesses of existing protection and from the divergences of protection across the EU, as well as on the need for minimum standards.
The Commission is seeking input from a broad range of interested stakeholders, including public authorities, judges, prosecutors, ombudspersons, EU institutions and agencies, international organisations, private companies, professional and business associations, trade unions and trade union associations, journalists, media representatives, civil society, academics and the general public.
Jo Seery of Thompsons Solicitors said “Notwithstanding the feasibility of EU action anything which highlights the importance of effective whistleblower protection is a good thing”.
The consultation period ends on 29 May 2017.
To access the consultation paper, go to: http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/just/item-detail.cfm?item_id=54254