The EU deadline for national whistleblowing legislation and whistleblower protection was 17 December 2021. National laws were adopted within the deadline in several countries, but even more were delayed.
Whistleblower protection comes into force when the national law is executed. This is also the case for smaller companies. But what does it mean in practice? Don't companies employing between 50 and 249 people have a transitional period until December 2023?
A distinction should therefore be made between the whistleblower protection and the obligation to organise a whistleblowing channel. The obligation to provide a whistleblowing channel will benefit from that transitional period, but the whistleblower protection will come into force when the law enters into force.
This will also affect companies employing less than 50 people. Everyone will have the right to report cases of miscoduct and receive whistleblower protection when the conditions for whistleblower protection are met. This means that staff members, subcontractors, freelancers, etc. of small companies will also be able to file a report. If the organisation has not set up a channel, the whistleblower has the right to report directly to the national whistleblowing channel and the organisation loses the right to investigate the report internally for three months.
What can you do in anticipation now?
Setting up a whistleblower protection and whistleblowing channel involves a number of administrative steps, such as a cooperation procedure and the definition of a report handling process. Both of these should be put in place right now. At Juuriharja, we are committed to modifying our First Whistle, whistleblowing channel as and when the law comes into force, so you can also get a channel from us now without any concerns.
When you place your order, we'll provide a checklist of things to take care of and help you get everything in order. If you need help with the planning phase, we can offer that too.
Will the reports be archived or deleted?
One question that has been the subject of much discussion is the archiving of the case reports. The government's draft Whistleblower Protection Act, which was sent for comments last summer, did not include a time limit on how long a whistleblower can express that he or she has been retaliated for creating the report. This leads to the conclusion that it is not recommended for an organisation to dispose of the reports and the documentation related to their investigation, as they may be needed as evidence after an undetermined period of time. Hopefully the future law will include such a time limit.
We have developed an archiving capability within First Whistle that allows an organisation to manage the archiving, retrieval and final disposal of cases and investigative documentation in a secure environment. This allows an agile response to future changes in the law.
How do you know which cases to report?
The whistleblowing channel is a strong part of developing an ethical organisational culture. It is a management tool to gain insight into misconduct and to identify, for example, process improvement needs. Many of our clients have identified this as a great opportunity to strengthen their organisational culture in other ways too. Now is a good time to highlight once again the importance of values in everyday life, and the role of the Code of Conduct in identifying the need for disclosure.
The Code of Conduct defines a good threshold for reporting. If the threshold is crossed, it is important to raise the issue. And if you don’t have the courage to speak up, a whistleblowing channel can help.
If your organisation's values have been left undefined in the heat of everyday life and growth, now is a good time to take action. Similarly, ethical principles are important in everyday life. They have a strong impact on how people in different managerial and frontline roles are stressed in their work, for example. Both require strong staff involvement in content definition phase. The research evidence is clear: values and codes of conduct defined by a small group actually erode culture, rather than reinforcing it.
Would you like to discuss further? Or see how First Whistle works in practice?
I'm happy to help. Make an appointment on my calendar:
- Erika Heiskanen
Read more about First Whistle, Juuriharja's whistleblowing service.