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Whistleblowing and its implementation in the UK, Germany, and Italy

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Our white paper on whistleblowing provides a comprehensive overview of the EU Whistleblowing Directive, its implementation in Italy and Germany, and the situation in the UK post-Brexit.

Key features of the EU Whistleblowing Directive

The Whistleblowing Directive requires EU member states to implement common minimum standards to ensure that whistleblowers are effectively protected. Whistleblowers qualify for protection under the directive provided that they had reasonable grounds to believe that the information regarding the violations reported was true and that such information fell within the scope of the directive.

Protective measures

Whistleblowers may report breaches through internal reporting channels and procedures, or through external reporting channels and procedures. Legal entities in the private and public sectors with 50 or more employees shall establish internal reporting channels and procedures. In addition, the member states shall designate authorities competent to receive whistleblowing reports, provide feedback and follow up on the reports.

Reporting channels

The directive prohibits any form of retaliation against whistleblowers, including threats and attempts at retaliation. Member states shall also take measures to protect whistleblowers from liability for breaching restrictions on disclosure, obtaining or having access to the information, or disclosing business secrets.
A whistleblower who makes a public disclosure may also qualify for protection under the Whistleblower Directive if they first reported internally and externally, but no appropriate action was taken in response to the report, or if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the breach may constitute an imminent or manifest danger to the public interest.

Public disclosure

The identity of the whistleblower shall not be disclosed to anyone other than those authorised to receive or follow up on the whistleblower report, without the explicit consent of the whistleblower.

Implementation deadlines

The member states had to comply with the Whistleblower Directive by 17 December 2021. For legal entities in the private sector with between 50 and 249 employees, the member states have until 17 December 2023 to comply with the obligation to establish internal reporting channels.

Implementation in Italy

Italy successfully transposed the EU Whistleblowing Directive into national law through Legislative Decree no. 24/2023 in March 2023. The Italian National Anti-Corruption Authority (ANAC) played a crucial role by issuing comprehensive guidelines to complement the directive. The most notable change introduced by the guidelines is the extension of the “231 model” to encompass a broader pool of employees. The 231 model is the system in which entities are liable for the crimes of their directors, managers or certain employees that advantage that entity.

Situation in the UK post-Brexit

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, and the transition period ended on 31 December 2020. This means that the EU Whistleblowing Directive is no longer directly applicable in the UK. However, the UK government has stated that it is committed to protecting whistleblowers and that it is considering introducing legislation to implement the Whistleblowing Directive in the UK.

Key takeaways

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Download the full white paper to learn more about the EU Whistleblowing Directive, its implementation in Italy and Germany, and the situation in the UK post-Brexit.

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