What kind of misconduct can our employees blow the whistle on and be protected by the new EU Whistleblower Protection directive? Is harassment and discrimination included?
Under the EU Whistleblower Protection directive, whistleblowers will be able to sound the alarm on a broad range of issues and remain protected from recrimination when they do so. The new directive focuses on protecting against misconduct that is a threat to public interests and therefore covers issues such as the environment, public health, consumer safety, public finances, anti-money laundering, corporate taxation, data protection and manufacturing and trading of unsafe or illegal products.
The whistleblower can provide information about breaches of EU law that have already taken place, breaches that have not yet happened but that are believed highly likely to do so, actions or failures that the whistleblower has reasonable concern to consider as a breach of EU law and attempts at hiding breaches of law.
At the EU level, the new directive does not protect people that report harassment, discrimination, bullying and the like. However, as the European Commission's press release states, "Member States are free to extend these rules to other areas." Harassment and other workplace environment related issues clearly touch many individuals and workplaces daily. For example, WhistleB's 2019 Customer Survey shows that more than 20% of all the reports that our customers receive are about harassment or discrimination. When we compared the results of the last four years of this study, we saw a marked increase in the number of harassment-related reports received post metoo from 2018 onwards. Further, recent cases also indicate that harassment, when it exists, is often widespread and even systemic in an organisation.
WhistleB therefore encourages EU member country lawmakers to include these matters in their national interpretations of the directive. Failing that, company leaders should demonstrate that they have zero-tolerance for harassment and commit to protecting employees who report incidences of harassment, discrimination, bullying and so on to help make the workplace safer.