Whistleblowers still largely unprotected

The EU Whistleblower Directive, which is intended to help improve the disclosure of wrongdoing, must be transposed into national law by the end of 2021. Further information on the EU Directive can be found here.

By implementing the directive, employees should be protected in the future against dismissal or mobbing in the course of whistleblowing. Another goal is to increase transparency in the private and public sector and thus to be able to prevent or uncover more cases of maladministration.

In many larger companies, it is already common practice for an internal reporting channel to be part of their compliance management system. However, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) still need to catch up in this respect. Since the new directive requires companies with 50 or more employees to maintain a whistleblowing system, SMEs are also affected. However, in contrast to large companies, small and medium-sized enterprises still have until the end of 2023 to implement the directive.

The public sector is also affected by the directive. So far, however, only a few have implemented the directive in Austria. Only those municipalities that have fewer than 10,000 inhabitants or fewer than 50 employees are exempt.

The municipality of Vienna can be cited as a role model in the implementation of the directive. For more information, see the article Vienna Whistleblower Platform Brings More Transparency.

At first glance, it seems that the requirements of the Whistleblower Directive are very burdensome, especially for SMEs and smaller municipalities. However, a closer look reveals that the advantages of having an internal reporting channel outweigh the disadvantages. Not only the increased transparency within the company has a positive effect. Financial and reputational damage can be prevented by uncovering grievances at an early stage.

Wiener Zeitung 2021-04-29