Whistleblower - a Definition
A whistleblower is someone who notices unethical behavior or grievances in the company and reports them accordingly. The aim is therefore to intervene at an early stage and to be able to turn to a trustworthy reporting office before any grievances take on greater proportions.
The whistleblower report from 2021 has already revealed that:
- One third of the companies surveyed actually do have whistleblowers.
- Companies with an active reporting office received an average of 34 reports in 2020.
- Only a minority of companies are fully prepared for the introduction of the Whistleblower Protection Law at this point in time.
What is the current status?
The EU directive was introduced on December 16, 2019 with the intention of introducing a uniform European standard to protect whistleblowers. Since then, all EU member states have been working on its implementation. In Germany, the Whistleblower Protection Law (HinSchG) has been introduced since July 2, 2023.
This means that all companies with more than 50 employees are now obliged to set up an internal whistleblower system. However, for companies with fewer than 250 employees, there is a deferral for implementation until December 17, 2023.
What does the new Whistleblower Protection Law say?
The Whistleblower Protection Law is intended to give whistleblowers better protection. The following criteria are included in the law:
- Whistleblowers must have the opportunity to submit information either verbally, in writing or through a personal conversation.
- The receipt of the report must be confirmed by the internal reporting office within seven days.
- The internal reporting office has three months to inform the whistleblower of any action taken.
- The burden of proof is reversed in favor of the whistleblower. In other words, it is not the whistleblower who must prove a connection between the whistleblowing and the discrimination, but the employer must prove a different reason for the alleged discrimination.
- An external reporting office will also be set up at the Federal Office of Justice, which whistleblowers can contact as an alternative.
Also important to know: According to Section 40, it is an administrative offense not to set up the internal reporting office despite being obliged to do so. This can be punished with a fine of up to 20,000 euros. However, this provision on fines does not apply until December 1, 2023. In other words, there will only be consequences from December 2023.
What companies should keep in mind
The topic of whistleblowing raises concerns in many companies. Fears are often that the company's reputation could be tarnished, that the working atmosphere could suffer or that employees could be wrongly reported.
However, employees who want to report something usually do this to maintain a positive working environment. This enables companies to respond promptly and establish a productive and inclusive working environment.
When setting up a reporting office, it makes sense to use a software, especially in hybrid working conditions. To ensure the whistleblowers' anonymity it isn't necessarily the best idea to rely on your HR software. This is because the rather complex assignment of rights and roles could also mean that the origin of the report could be traced back.
Our tip: In this case, opt for a tool that is dedicated to precisely this topic and meticulously maps all the requirements of the Whistleblower Protection Law. This will not only keep you on the safe side, but also the whistleblowers. And that's exactly what it's all about.