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Weak protection against retaliation for whistleblowers in the European Union

Weak protection against retaliation for whistleblowers in the European Union

The EU directive states that all companies with 50 or more employees must have an internal whistleblowing system, whereby employees must be able to report whistleblowing according to a set process, with the option of anonymity. More than 8,000 Swedish companies are affected by the change in the law, as the deadline for implementing the system falls on December 17 this year.

In the 2023 State of Risk and Compliance Report, which Navex released over the summer, a variety of questions related to regulatory risk and compliance were addressed. It is based on a survey of 1,300 experts in the field in Europe and North America. A difference highlighted relates to the perceived need to prioritize non-retaliation, ie protecting whistleblowers from employer retaliation. The responses indicate that European companies prioritize this issue less than American companies.

51% of companies globally had a non-retaliation policy as part of their reporting and investigation programmes, but Europe still lags behind. While 61% of Americans answered this question in the affirmative, the corresponding figure in Great Britain was 36% – and in the European Union countries Germany and France, 41% and 27%, respectively. Even in matters such as data safety and ethical training, US companies were far ahead of European companies.

Companies with a strong culture of candor handle retaliation better. In an organization where there is a high fear that reporting will backfire on the whistleblower, fewer internal reports will be filed, and reports received are more likely to be anonymous. Therefore, implementing measures that prevent retaliation is an important factor in the success of a compliance programme.

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– Without a strong, well-communicated, and reliable non-retaliation policy, whistleblowers may not feel confident using an internal system for reporting inappropriate behavior. The report’s authors note that the additional pressure generated by the EU’s whistleblower directives was expected to result in stronger responses among European participants.