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Mandatory protection for whistleblowers – be prepared on time

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Mandatory protection for whistleblowers

By December 17, 2021, Belgium will need to have implemented the European Whistleblower Directive. From then on, organisations and companies must have a workable internal reporting channel in place for whistleblowers who expose abuses. Belgium is still lagging behind, but we are already taking steps to move forward.

Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning or Frances Haugen… these are just a few names among well-known whistleblowers who risked their lives for a greater cause. Their motivations may be noble, but the danger of severe penalties remains high, which is why there is a need to protect whistleblowers. Europe is now tightening the rules.

What is the Whistleblower Directive about?

The directive sets minimum standards for the protection of whistleblowers. These are individuals who, during their employment in the context of cooperation with a government or private company, have identified certain violations and want to report them. These violations can include rules on public procurement, financial services, money laundering prevention, public health, environmental protection, data protection… there are countless examples.

Concrete actions

All companies and organisations – in both the private and public sector – with at least 50 employees must set up an internal reporting channel. Of course, there have to be sufficient guarantees in terms of independence, confidentiality, follow-up and data protection.

Who does this directive protect?

The protection applies to all persons who are economically vulnerable and who wish to report a violation observed in a work-related context. This concerns both current and former employees, civil servants or the self-employed, but trainees and volunteers are also eligible. The same goes for the family, colleagues and confidants of the whistleblower. Anonymous whistleblowers are also covered by the directive if they are identified at a later date.

When will the Whistleblower Directive be applied?

On December 16, 2019, the European Whistleblower Directive came into effect. Member States were given until December 17, 2021 to transpose it into national law. It is currently uncertain whether Belgium will meet that deadline. We are following developments closely and will inform you as soon as more details are known.

Nobody knows what the consequences will be if Belgium does not transpose the directive in time. But we think it would be wise to mark that date on your calendar in advance. After all, the Directive requires that companies with a workforce of at least 250 employees have an internal whistleblower plan in place by December 17, 2021. Private companies with 50 to 249 employees still have time until December 16, 2023, unless the Belgian authorities decide otherwise. Exceptions are also possible for municipalities with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants or 50 employees and other public entities that do not have 50 employees.

In any case, the obligation will come into force and it may be sooner than you think. So it’s best not to wait for the government, but to take action now. 

What does it do for you?

The Whistleblower Directive is essentially about safeguarding integrity in business. Although the procedure does not prevent employees or third parties from turning to the (social) media to report a complaint, it does reduce the chances of this. After all, protection is guaranteed. By taking initiatives now, as an employer you will already be in compliance with the European minimum requirements. 

Solution for SD Worx customers

At SD Worx, we know our customers through and through. This allows us to set up their internal reporting channel by closely integrating it with SD Worx Assistant. This solution is accessible, user-friendly and at the same time one of the most secure ways to guarantee privacy. In addition, we also offer a package with webinars, model documents and consulting available to implement the reporting channel in a way that’s fully compliance-proof.

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ByJan Vanthournout-Manager Tax & Legal

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