24 Apr 2018

European Commission unveils whistleblower protection

Commission is setting new EU-wide rules to protect whistleblowers and clarifies mechanisms and obligations.


The European Commission is proposing a new law to strengthen whistleblower protection across the EU. Recent scandals and the current Cambridge Analytica revelations demonstrates the role whistleblowers play in the digital economy, and the EU believes it is important to protect individuals uncovering unlawful activities that damage the public interest and the welfare of citizens and society. The new proposal will guarantee a high level of protection for whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law by setting new EU-wide standards.

Clear mechanisms and obligations

The new law will establish safe channels for reporting both within an organisation and to public authorities. All companies with more than 50 employees or with an annual turnover of over €10 million will have to set up an internal procedure to handle whistleblowers' reports. All state, regional administrations and municipalities with over 10,000 inhabitants will also be covered by the new law.  The Commission proposes an escalating three tier reporting system of internal reporting channels, reporting to competent authorities, and, public and media reporting.

Protection from retaliation

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: 'Many recent scandals may never have come to light if insiders hadn't had the courage to speak out. But those who did took enormous risks. So if we better protect whistleblowers, we can better detect and prevent harm to the public interest such as fraud, corruption, corporate tax avoidance or damage to people's health and the environment. There should be no punishment for doing the right thing.' According to the 2016 Global Business Ethics Survey, 36 per cent of workers who reported misconduct experienced retaliation. The Commission stresses protecting whistleblowers will also help safeguard freedom of expression and media freedom, which is essential to protect the rule of law and democracy in Europe.