On 18 October 2021, the Government Legislation Centre published the long-awaited bill on the protection of people reporting breaches of law, widely known as the “whistleblower law”. The aim of the bill is to implement into the Polish legal system the EU Directive 2019/1937, according to which it will be the duty of every employer with more than 50 employees to establish internal regulations on whistleblowing. EU Member States have until 17 December 2021 to implement the Directive.
- Whistleblower law – for whom?
- Under the bill, anyone who reports or discloses information on a violation of the law obtained in a work-related context is protected.
- The bill applies to all employees, including people performing work on the basis of civil law contracts, as well as former employees and applicants for employment.
The reporting person will be protected if the information provided by him/her is true at the time of reporting and relates to an infringement.
- Purpose and effects of the protection
- Whistleblowers will be protected against retaliation of any kind or other adverse treatment because of their report.
- The termination of a legal relationship due to a report will be considered as ineffective.
- Provisions in contracts or internal regulations that in any way exclude or limit the right to report will be deemed null and void.
- Employers’ obligations
- Every employer with more than 50 employees will have to establish internal regulations on whistleblowing.
- The regulations will have to be agreed with the company’s trade unions – or consulted with employee representatives if there are no trade unions in the company.
- The content of the regulations can be divided into two groups – mandatory and optional.
The regulations must include (mandatory elements) information on:
- the entity authorised to receive report and the way in which they will be received;
- whether anonymous reporting is possible;
- an independent body that will be authorised to follow up the action;
- the obligation to acknowledge receipt of the notification within seven days and to take certain follow-up actions;
- the maximum feedback period of three months;
- how to make external notifications to public authorities.
The regulations may include (optional elements) information on:
- people other than employees from whom reports will be accepted;
- infringements related to the employer’s internal regulations or ethical standards;
- risk factors related to the employer’s business profile;
- the types of infringements which the employer encourages to be reported in the first place;
- the fact that a report may also be made to a public authority without following the procedure provided for in the regulations.
- Criminal liability
The bill provides for criminal liability (a fine, a restriction of liberty or imprisonment for up to three years) for a person who:
- obstructs the filing of a report,
- retaliates against the person who made the report or public disclosure,
- breaches an obligation to keep the identity of the reporting person confidential,
- makes a report or public disclosure of false information,
- has not established an internal procedure for reporting violations of the law despite its obligation to do so, or the procedure it has established violates the law.
According to the bill, employers with at least 250 employees will be required to implement the changes when the law comes into force (according to the information in the Public Information Bulletin, the planned date of adoption of the bill by the Council of Ministers is the fourth quarter of 2021). Entities employing between 50 and 249 employees will have until 17 December 2023 to implement the changes.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
The Employment team, DLA Piper Giziński Kycia sp.j.