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New EU Directive on Whistleblower Protection will also apply to Life Sciences sector

On 7 October 2019, the Council of Ministers adopted the Directive on Whistleblower protection at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg. The Directive will introduce new EU-wide rules to protect whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law. “EU law breaches” include, amongst others, those relating to EU laws on product safety and compliance, food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, and public health.

The Directive aims to encourage potential whistleblowers to report corporate wrongdoing and to harmonise fragmented whistleblower protection regimes across the EU. Currently only 10 countries out of 28 provide comprehensive legal protection.

Whistleblowers will not be eligible for financial rewards, as under the US Dodd-Frank regime. For organisations the main compliance challenge will be setting up internal reporting channels, or reviewing those already in place to ensure that they meet prescriptive EU standards. The proposed shift of the burden of proof to employers, where a genuine whistleblower alleges detriment, will also increase litigation risk, underlying the need for all decisions affecting whistleblowers to be properly documented and objectively justified.

After being published in the Official Journal, Member States will have two years to transpose the Directive into national law, although employers with more than 50 but fewer than 250 employees would have an additional two years to set up internal reporting channels.

In our latest eAlert we explain the Directive and its consequences for employers and HR.