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European Directive on the Protection of Whistleblowers: Main Requirements for Companies

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European Directive on the Protection of Whistleblowers: Main Requirements for Companies

The European Directive on the protection of whistleblowers, adopted in 2019, marks a significant milestone in safeguarding those who expose wrongdoing within organizations. This directive mandates comprehensive measures that companies must implement to ensure the protection and encouragement of whistleblowing. This article will explore in detail the main requirements companies need to fulfill to comply with this directive, including setting up secure reporting channels, guaranteeing confidentiality, properly handling reports, and protecting whistleblowers from retaliation. Additionally, it will discuss how whistleblowing software can assist companies in meeting these requirements effectively.

1. Understanding the European Whistleblower Protection Directive

The European Whistleblower Protection Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/1937) was introduced to provide a uniform standard of protection across EU member states for individuals who report breaches of Union law. The directive aims to:

  • Protect whistleblowers from retaliation.
  • Ensure that whistleblowers can report breaches in a secure and confidential manner.
  • Establish clear procedures for reporting and following up on reports.
  • Encourage a culture of transparency and accountability within organizations.

Key Provisions of the Directive

The directive covers a wide range of areas, including public procurement, financial services, product safety, environmental protection, and public health. It applies to both private and public sector organizations, requiring them to:

  1. Establish internal reporting channels.
  2. Ensure the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s identity.
  3. Prohibit retaliation against whistleblowers.
  4. Provide feedback to whistleblowers on the progress and outcome of their reports.
  5. Educate and train employees on whistleblower protections and reporting procedures.

2. Setting Up Secure Reporting Channels

One of the cornerstone requirements of the directive is the establishment of secure and accessible reporting channels within companies. These channels must be designed to facilitate the reporting of breaches in a manner that is both easy to use and highly secure.

Internal Reporting Channels

Companies are required to set up internal reporting channels that can handle reports from employees and other stakeholders. These channels can be managed internally or by third parties and must include:

  • Multiple Reporting Options:

Providing various means to report (e.g., telephone hotlines, online platforms, in-person reporting).

  • Accessibility:

Ensuring that the reporting channels are accessible to all employees and stakeholders.

  • Security Measures:

Implementing robust security measures to protect the data and identity of the whistleblower.

External Reporting Channels

In addition to internal channels, the directive mandates that member states establish external reporting channels managed by competent authorities. Whistleblowers should have the option to report breaches externally if they:

  • Believe that the internal reporting channels are not effective.
  • Fear retaliation from their employer.
  • Prefer to report directly to a competent authority.

3. Guaranteeing Confidentiality

Confidentiality is a critical aspect of the directive, ensuring that whistleblowers feel safe to report misconduct without fear of their identity being revealed.

Protecting Whistleblower Identity

Companies must take all necessary steps to maintain the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s identity. This includes:

  • Anonymity:

Allowing for anonymous reporting where possible.

  • Restricted Access:

Limiting access to the identity of the whistleblower to authorized personnel only.

  • Data Protection:

Implementing data protection measures in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to safeguard personal information.

Confidential Handling of Reports

Reports should be handled confidentially throughout the investigation process. Companies must ensure that:

  • Information related to the report is shared on a need-to-know basis.
  • Measures are in place to prevent unauthorized access to the information.
  • The identity of the whistleblower is protected even if the investigation reveals their involvement.

4. Handling Reports Properly

Proper handling of reports is crucial for maintaining trust in the whistleblowing process and ensuring effective resolution of the reported issues.

Acknowledgment and Follow-up

Companies are required to acknowledge receipt of a report within seven days and provide feedback on the progress and outcome of the investigation within three months. This process involves:

  • Initial Acknowledgment:

Confirming receipt of the report and outlining the next steps.

  • Investigation Process:

Conducting a thorough and impartial investigation into the reported breach.

  • Outcome and Feedback:

Informing the whistleblower of the investigation’s outcome and any actions taken.

Investigation Procedures

Companies must establish clear procedures for investigating reports, including:

  • Assigning Responsibility:

Designating responsible personnel or departments to handle investigations.

  • Ensuring Impartiality:

Maintaining impartiality and fairness throughout the investigation process.

  • Documentation:

Keeping detailed records of the investigation process and findings.

5. Protecting Whistleblowers from Retaliation

The directive explicitly prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers, ensuring they are protected from any adverse actions as a result of their reporting.

Prohibited Retaliatory Actions

Retaliation can take many forms, and companies must be vigilant in protecting whistleblowers from:

  • Dismissal or Demotion:

Ensuring whistleblowers are not unfairly dismissed, demoted, or denied promotions.

  • Harassment:

Protecting whistleblowers from workplace harassment, bullying, or discrimination.

  • Legal Actions:

Preventing unjust legal actions or threats against whistleblowers.

Support and Remedies

Companies are encouraged to provide support and remedies for whistleblowers who face retaliation, including:

  • Legal Assistance:

Offering legal advice and support.

  • Reinstatement:

Ensuring whistleblowers are reinstated to their original position if they were unfairly dismissed.

  • Compensation:

Providing compensation for damages suffered as a result of retaliation.

6. The Role of Whistleblowing Software

Whistleblowing software can significantly aid companies in meeting the requirements of the European Whistleblower Protection Directive. These tools are designed to streamline the reporting process, enhance security, and ensure compliance with legal obligations.

Features of Whistleblowing Software

Modern whistleblowing software typically includes features such as:

  • Secure Reporting Channels:

Encrypted and secure platforms for reporting breaches.

  • Confidentiality Measures:

Robust measures to protect the identity and data of whistleblowers.

  • Case Management:

Tools to manage and track the progress of investigations.

  • Compliance Support:

Features that help ensure compliance with the directive and other relevant regulations.

Benefits of Using Whistleblowing Software

Implementing whistleblowing software offers several benefits, including:

  • Enhanced Security:

Ensuring the highest levels of data protection and confidentiality.

  • Efficiency:

Streamlining the reporting and investigation process.

  • Transparency:

Providing clear and accessible reporting channels.

  • Compliance:

Helping companies meet all legal requirements and avoid penalties.


The European Directive on the protection of whistleblowers imposes stringent requirements on companies to ensure the safety and encouragement of whistleblowing.

By setting up secure reporting channels, guaranteeing confidentiality, properly handling reports, and protecting whistleblowers from retaliation, companies can foster a culture of transparency and accountability.

Whistleblowing software can be an invaluable tool in meeting these requirements efficiently and effectively.

Make sure you fulfil the requirements of the European Whistleblower Protection Directive.

Find out how our whistleblowing software can make your compliance easier. Request a free consultation !

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Published in: 2024.06.05

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