The general protection of whistleblowers is about to be strengthened in EU-countries, which in turn will put a higher demand on organizations to have functioning systems for receiving feedback from their employees. With a secure whistleblower or reporting channel, your organization can create a safe working environment for your employees while maintaining high transparency and ethical standards. In addition, you will more easily be able to deal with irregularities and detect them at an early stage.

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This article is a translation of “Ny lag om visselblåsning – allt du behöver veta om Whistleblowing” and is mainly focused on how the EU-directive is planned to be implemented in Sweden.

What is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is when an employee of a company, organization or branch of government informs the management about irregularities. The purpose of this is to make the management aware of serious misconduct in the workplace. The easiest method to do this is to use a whistleblowing channel that the employees can use to report misconduct, anonymously.

Is it true that the protection for whistleblowers is about to get stronger?

Yes, that is true. The Swedish government has voted yes on a bill to implement the European Union’s Whistleblower Directive. This bill will grant higher protection for whistleblowers on several levels. One of the suggested proposals is to put the whistleblower’s identity under a privacy notice. The protection for whistleblowers is also going to cover more people. Companies are going to be required to have clear methods for each individual to report misconduct, both internally and externally. Organizations, with at least 50 employees, will be required to have internal reporting channels to allow their employees to report misconduct. Methods will also be available for people to report misconduct directly to authorities when it is appropriate.

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Doesn’t a law protecting whistleblowers already exist?

A law in Sweden already exists, that protects employees from retaliation, dismissal and worsening of their employment conditions, should the employee report serious misconduct in their working environment. But this law is only relevant in very serious cases of misconduct, such as criminal offences that can lead to prison sentences. The new law provides more widespread protection with the purpose of making it safer and easier to report misconduct.

What positives can a whistleblower channel provide for you?

The consequences for a company can be very serious if reports of misconduct should become public before they are dealt with internally. For most organizations, it is important to have an easy-to-use and cost-efficient system for whistleblowing. An external system is usually preferred.

By providing your employees with a whistleblower channel, your company will have the necessary tools to handle misconduct properly. This ensures that your employees feel safe at work while the company maintains transparency that shows high ethical values.

What is an internal reporting channel/whistleblower channel?

Through an internal reporting channel, employees can alert the management of misconduct internally. This can be done through e-mail or by having a meeting with the employee. The whistleblower channel’s purpose is to receive reports about misconduct, be in contact with whistleblowers, follow up on reports and inform the whistleblower about the status of their reports.

Whistleblowing solution

What is an external reporting channel/whistleblower channel?

An external reporting channel is different from an internal one by being directly connected to the proper authorities, as chosen by the government. An external reporting channel will receive, follow up and provide feedback on reports of misconduct in specific areas. Employees who want to blow the whistle can do so directly through an external reporting channel, without first having to go through the internal reporting channel.

When does the new law come into effect?

The new law is planned to come into effect on December 17th 2021 in Sweden. Medium-sized companies (with 50 to 249 total employees and yearly revenue of up to 43 million Euros) will have to set up their internal reporting channels before December 17th 2021 while other companies will have until July 17th 2022 to do the same.

Why is the whistleblower’s anonymity so important?

People need to feel safe and be assured that they won’t face negative consequences by reporting misconduct. By guaranteeing that the reporting channels are anonymous, you will have a higher probability to get information about serious incidents.

Why choose an external supplier for your whistleblower system?

An external reporting channel that is provided by an external supplier has a lot of pro’s that will make things easier for you. An effective report handling system, for instance, can ensure that you are using the appropriate privacy laws, provide you with a safe and stable IT solution and a well-designed structure to handle reports and investigations. An external supplier is also more likely to have the latest in terms of software and functions, making sure the data is protected throughout the entire reporting process. Another reason to use an external supplier is to avoid that a person that is being reported on isn’t going to find and read a report about themselves.

What does the new law require you to do?

Just by setting up internal reporting channels and making sure that the anonymity of potential whistleblowers is kept safe, you are well on your way abiding the new law. Organizations with 50 or more employees will be required to set up internal reporting channels. Organizations with 50 to 249 employees will, to some extent, be allowed to share their internal reporting channels and follow-up procedures. Larger organizations are required to set up their own reporting channels.

Employees will have to be able to report misconduct in writing or face-to-face. The whistleblower system has to be able to receive reports and stay in touch with the whistleblower, follow up on the reports and report back to the employee. The ones responsible for the internal reporting system can either be groups or individuals employed by the company or an external party that has been hired by the company to handle the reports.

How do I know that the internal reporting channel is safe and my anonymity guaranteed?

The specific channels that will be used to report misconduct are supposed to provide more safety for the whistleblower than the methods used today. The identity of the whistleblower will require the highest form of privacy, which basically means that their identity is not allowed to be made public, under any circumstances.

What are the negative effects on my company if our whistleblower channel doesn’t work properly?

Should reports about misconduct at your company be made public, this can have huge negative effects. The financial consequences can be in the form of lost investments, clients leaving, less trust in the management/board and even employees leaving the company. The majority of whistleblowers have raised their issues internally to no avail, before choosing to go public, which is why it is so important to have a functioning whistleblowing channel at every company.

How can Questback be used for internal reporting?

In Questback Essentials, it is already possible to set up a reporting channel. The tool is flexible and you are able to adjust it according to your own needs within your organization. Available functions are, for instance, notifications and anonymity.

 

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