On October 7, 2019, the Council of the European Union formally adopted new rules on the protection of whistleblowers, to remedy the fragmented state of whistleblower protection among EU countries and at the EU government level. The new rules mandate access avenues for safe and anonymous reporting, both directly to government authorities, and within public and private organizations.
The rules apply to municipalities with more than 10,000 residents and companies with over 50 employees, and mandate the imposition of penalties for retaliation or breach of confidentiality of a protected whistleblower. They protect volunteers, trainees and shareholders as well as civil servants and employees, and also provide protection for those who assist a whistleblower, whether colleagues or family members. They protect whistleblowers who have reasonable grounds to believe that the matters reported by them are true, regardless of their motivation in making the report, and regardless of whether the information is later proven inaccurate or untrue. The directive requires follow-up within three months of reporting.
EU member states will have two years from the entry into force of the new directive to enact laws, regulations and administrative provisions to comply with it. Member states will be required to report to the European Commission annually regarding the number of whistleblower reports received by the competent authorities in that country, and the number of investigations and proceedings initiated as a result of the reports.