Danny McCance 17 Apr 2019 11:37am

MEPs sign off on new whistleblower protections

The European Parliament has approved plans to ensure better protections for anyone disclosing information acquired in a work-related context about illegal or harmful activities

The EU-wide whistleblower protections were approved after 591 MEPs voted in favour, but were opposed by 29 with 33 abstaining.

The European Parliament and EU council had already come to a provisional agreement on the new rules in March.

These will allow for better channels and more confidential means through which whistleblowers can communicate information both internally, directly to national authorities, or to EU agencies.

It will also ensure legal protection from reprisals, which will also cover those assisting whistleblowers such as colleagues and family members, while it will force member states to make available independent advice, support and legal aid.

Virginie Rozière MEP said that instances such as the Luxleaks and Panama Papers scandals have revealed a great deal about the precariousness of whistleblowers.

“On the eve of European elections, parliament has come together to send a strong signal that it has heard the concerns of its citizens, and pushed for robust rules guaranteeing their safety and that of those persons who choose to speak out,” Rozière said.

The European Parliament had previously taken the European Commission to task over its failure to come up with legislative proposals to establish a minimum level of protection for whistleblowers.

The rules will cover various sectors in which breaches of EU law occur – including public procurement, financial services, money laundering, product and transport safety, nuclear safety, public health and consumer and data protection.

Last week, ICAEW stated that companies need to recognise the benefits of whistleblowing and its importance to business, while providing guidance on how companies can better create an environment in which it is encouraged.

Elizabeth Richards, head of corporate governance at ICAEW, said that the topic of whistleblowing is “contentious”, as while it is applauded if it increases profits or protects losses, it is criticised if it exposes failures – a “separation” that needs to stop.

“Whistleblowing offers companies a chance to get honest feedback which is not corrupted by self-interest or personal motivations and should be seen as an opportunity for improvement – irrespective of the deficiency exposed,” she said.