Seven EU Member States are still facing delays to the transposition of the Directive, and one, Hungary, has not even begun drafting legislation for whistleblowing in the EU. Here are some of the latest highlights. As of February 19th, 2023, 19 nations have adopted whistleblowing legislation, and most have begun the work to implement the new changes. Most European Union Member States have made gradual progress in the adoption of new national laws that will transpose the EU Directive.
Austria has become the 17th nation to adopt the EU Directive into national law. On February 1st, 2023, the Austrian Parliament finally approved the new HinweisgeberInnenschutzgesetz legislation (Whistleblower Protection Act). The law is still in the process of being confirmed by the Federal Council of Austria. Whistleblowing laws in the EU are meant to encourage companies to stay compliant when it comes to areas of public interest. In Austraia, the law focuses on product safety, environmental protection, and money laundering. If found to be non-compliance, they could face fines of up to 40,000 Euros. Under the new legislation, whistleblowers will have the option to use an internal or external reporting channel to disclose any misconduct they witness. Companies and organisations with 50 to 249 employees have been granted an extension for implementing these changes until December 17th, 2023.
Luxembourg has been ordered to pay damages to whistleblower, Raphael Halet, for violating his freedom of expression as a French citizen. In a Valentine’s Day court ruling about the LuxLeaks scandal, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that there had been a violation of Article 10, freedom of expression, in the case concerning the disclosure by Raphael Halet, a former PwC employee who revealed confidential documents as part of the high-profile whistleblowing case. Halet was previously fined 1,000 euros for damages sustained by the company as a result of the disclosure. However, this time around, the court found that the public interest in the disclosure outweighed the negative effects and that interference and punishment by Luxembourg’s government had not been warranted. The ruling will likely have broader implications for whistleblower rights, as well as government and businesses’ decisions to prosecute or retaliate.
Czechia continues to face delays in the adoption of the EU Whistleblowing Directive. It was recently added to a list of eight Member States and referred to the European Court of Justice for violations. The European Commission is filing a lawsuit against the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Luxembourg for non-compliance. It has accused the Czech Republic of failing to transpose the Directive on Whistleblowing. Authorities have said that the Whistleblowing Act is expected to enter into force on July 1st, 2023. The new law would protect employees who report violations and require companies to have an internal whistleblowing system. Businesses with 50 to 249 employees are expected to have until January 2024 to introduce these changes. However, in a statement, the EC said that the seven nations have not responded in a timely way to the formal requirement for fully transposing the EU Directive and have missed the deadline.
Although the Czech government approved the new bill last November, debate on the new Whistleblower Act was halted in February 2023. If adopted, the legal measures would improve protection and whistleblower rights in cases of corruption or threats to public health, data protection, product safety, and other areas. Czechia currently has no substantive laws that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Even if the EC’s legal procedure is successful, the consequences for violating the Directives are not yet clear. Until now, no Member State had been sued or sanctioned for failing to implement the Directive. The case could set a precedence and serve as an incentive for speeding up the transposition process.