Setback for implementation of EU Whistleblowing Directive in Germany
An attempt at implementing the EU Whistleblowing Directive („Directive„) into national law has recently failed in Germany. The governing parties were unable to reach a consensus on a draft bill. The Social Democratic Party pushed for regulations exceeding the minimum requirements of the Directive, while the liberal-conservative block argued against increasing requirements for companies during the pandemic.
The ongoing dispute regarding the extent to which the Directive should be implemented threatens the timely implementation of the Directive. The Directive has to be implemented by the member states by December 17, 2021.
Current implementation status in the EU
The implementation of the Directive is an ongoing process across EU member states. At least 21 out of the 27 member states of the European Union have taken action towards implementation. In Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Romania, the Netherlands and Sweden, legislative proposals for implementation have been drafted and are being discussed by their respective parliaments. First legislative steps have also been taken in Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Spain, where drafts are currently being planned or prepared. Slovakia and Slovenia have recently enacted laws in first reaction to the Directive. Additional laws are being discussed in both countries to reach full implementation.
Austria, Cyprus, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg and Malta have not publicly started an implementation process. However, internal steps may have already been taken. The United Kingdom has declared that it will not implement the Directive due to their departure from the European Union.
Key aspects of the Directive
The Directive requires companies with over 50 employees to implement confidential internal reporting channels and to inform employees about the possibility to external reporting. While there is no legal obligation to permit anonymous reports, the Directive encourages companies to permit anonymous reports. Members states may implement according obligations.
The Directive contains an obligation for companies to confirm the receipt of reports within seven days and to provide feedback to the whistleblower within three months. In particular these deadlines result in a need for companies to check internal processes for compliance with the Directive’s requirements.
In addition, companies must ensure that all forms of retaliation acts against whistleblowers are prohibited.