When Can A Whistleblower Go To The Public?

by Camilla Petersen


In December of 2019, the European Union passed a bill standardising whistleblower protection across Europe. By the end of 2021, all EU member states will have to include the EU Whistleblowing Directive in their national laws. 

Here, we will outline what the new directive entails, and what channels are available to an individual looking to report wrongdoing.

Protection Under The New Directive


Under the directive, individuals are protected from dismissal, degradation, and discrimination following whistleblowing.

It aims to protect “whistleblowers of good faith”. This includes any person coming forward with information they have reason to believe is true.

The law protects any individuals reporting on wrongdoing witnessed during work-related activities. It protects employees as well as those who are self-employed, or freelancers, consultants, contractors, suppliers, volunteers, unpaid trainees, and job applicants.

Protection is offered to any individuals reporting what they believe to be activities that break EU laws. This includes incidents involving:

  • tax fraud
  • money laundering
  • product safety
  • public health
  • environmental protection
  • privacy protection and more. 

If whistleblowing produces any form of retaliation, individuals will have access to free legal advice and certain remedial measures under the new directive.


Reporting Wrongdoing


It is crucial to protect whistleblowers if organisations want to encourage them to come forward with any incriminating information. 

If people can report wrongdoing without fear, the directive would have done its job to safeguard the public interest and protect freedom of expression and media freedom. This will help to achieve greater transparency and accountability overall.

An individual can report their concerns within an organisation itself. Required by the directive, liable organisations should have a reporting channel set up for that very purpose.

If the organisation has not provided an appropriate channel, the next port of call would be to report to a competent supervisory authority. If neither avenue produces any action against the wrongdoer, the concerned party can go directly to the public.

In fact, reporting directly to the public can be the first port of call if the individual believes that it is in the public’s interest to be made aware of the wrongdoing immediately. 

But, they are only guaranteed protection under the new directory if they initially try to report through the first two channels.


What To Do if “Nothing Happens”?


Following a report of wrongdoing, organisations have to follow up on the report and provide the concerned party with feedback within 3 months (sometimes 6 if justifiable). 

If no feedback is given, and it seems like there has been no real attempt to follow up on the individual’s concerns, the whistleblower can directly disclose their information to the public.

They can do this directly via social media, or through a journalist, elected officials, or civil societies.


Final Thoughts


Many potential whistleblowers are afraid of the repercussions they may face should they come forward. However, the EU directive aims to solve this problem. It provides whistleblowers with the necessary protection they need. This is especially important if nothing happens following a report and the whistleblower goes public with their information.

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Camilla Petersen

Country Manager, Denmark