Austria passes whistleblower law

More than a year after the actual deadline, the National Council passed the whistleblower law on January 25. The opposition, for whom the law does not go far enough, voted unanimously against it.

What is it about?

It will be a few months before the new regulations come into force. Then employees will have the opportunity to uncover grievances within their company. But it will also give companies the opportunity to clarify potentially reputation-damaging problems internally before the authorities and thus the public are informed.

To whom does the law apply?

All companies and public institutions with at least 50 employees must provide an internal reporting system from December 2023. After the law comes into force, companies with more than 250 employees will have six months to implement the requirements.

what if companies don't comply?

The external reporting office at the Federal Anti-Corruption Office, is the contact point for whistleblowers if there is no internal reporting channel. If a whistleblower uncovers a wrongdoing and is dismissed or otherwise put under pressure for it, he or she can take legal action against it. Companies that threaten an employee with reprisals face administrative fines of up to 20,000 euros. In repeated cases, up to 40,000 euros. The same penalty applies to employees who provide false information.

What are the advantages for companies?

Not only employees, but also companies benefit from the law. Before the authorities are informed, they have time to follow up on tips independently and sort out any problems before they become public.

Does the law go far enough?

According to the opposition and NGOs such as Transparency International, the law does not go far enough. The problem is that whistleblower protection only applies if the abuses also violate applicable EU law. According to experts, however, the protection should also apply to violations that affect national law. However, this extension has only been partially implemented in Austria. For example, only the criminal law on corruption is included, but not the entire criminal law. The NGO Transparency International also criticizes the fact that the scope of the law is difficult to discern for employees who do not have prior legal knowledge.

Standard 01.02.2023
Image credits & Copyright: Parliamentary/Ulrike Wieser