By Richard van Schaik and Róbin de Wit
As from 1 July 2016, the Dutch Whistleblowers Act (Wet Huis voor klokkenluiders, “Act”) will come into force, introducing statutory legal protection for whistleblowers. Important change is that it becomes obligatory for companies employing 50 or more employees to establish an internal whistleblowing policy as per 1 July 2016.
An overview of the changes and implications for your organization is provided below.
- Implementing an internal whistleblowing policy
Companies with at least 50 employees are obliged to establish a whistleblowing policy on how notifications of suspected misconduct within the organization will be dealt with. Employees (including freelancers, trainees or volunteers) having reasonable grounds to believe that wrongdoing whereby the public interest is at stake exists within the organization, must know where and how they can report this.
Although organizations are free to tailor a whistleblowing policy to their needs, the following information is mandatory to include:
- Information about how internal notifications are dealt with;
- Information about what would qualify as a suspicion of misconduct;
- Information about the designated representative within the organization to whom the notification can be addressed;
- Information that the notification shall treated confidential upon request;
- Information that an (internal or external) advisor can be consulted in confidence.
Organizations need to make sure that employees are properly informed about the content of the whistleblowing policy and the legal protections enjoyed by whistleblowers. In case a concern was raised in good faith, whistleblowers are protected from disciplinary measures.
Furthermore, the organization needs to obtain the consent of the Works Council when adopting the policy. Early involvement of the Works Council is strongly recommended.
- House for whistleblowers
Next to having a mandatory internal policy in place, the Act also introduces a new external administrative body for the benefit of whistleblowers: the House for Whistleblowers (“House”). This body provides for an advisory department and an investigation department.
In short, the advisory department supports whistleblowers and advise them upon request. Although employees are in principle required to report any suspected misconduct internally first, they can turn to the House in case internal reporting can reasonably not be expected or in case the internal report has not been adequately handled. When reported to the House, the investigation department may further investigate the matter and may draw up an analysis of findings and recommendations for the organization at stake.
- Conclusion: the impact of the Act on your organization
With the introduction of the Act, organizations need to have a closer look to their current policies. If no whistleblowing policy is yet in place, an internal procedure needs to be implemented and employees need to be informed about its content. But even if there is already a whistleblowing scheme in place, it is worthwhile to review the existing procedure as the Act contains additional compulsory requirements. DLA Piper has extensive experience in drafting and implementing whistleblowing procedures and would be grateful to be of assistance in tailoring a compliant policy to the needs of your organization.