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Whistleblower Protection Bill – update

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This January, we already informed you about the upcoming draft bill on whistleblower protection, which is intended to implement Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons reporting breaches of EU law. The transposition deadline for the directive expired on 17 December 2021, but the previous government failed to pass previous drafts of this bill. The current bill was approved this April by the Chamber of Deputies and is now heading to the Senate.

The aim of this article is to summarize interesting points in the approved text of the bill and to draw attention to individual provisions that have so far successfully passed the legislative process and those, which, on the contrary, have been rejected by the Chamber of Deputies.

General comments on the bill beyond the previous article

Failure to comply with the obligations imposed on obliged entities (i.e. employers with 50 or more employees, selected public authorities and contracting authorities) by the bill may result in a fine of up to CZK 1,000,000 if the obliged entity, for example, exposes the whistleblower to retaliation or fails to ensure that the whistleblower is able to submit a notification using an internal notification system.

More than one company may share such an internal reporting system, which is intended specifically for the purpose of submitting notifications, provided that the total number of employees of all companies sharing one internal reporting system does not exceed 249. This arrangement brings at least some relief, especially for companies in a group within a business concern. However, if a company has more than 250 employees, it will not be possible to share the internal notification system and the company will need to implement its own system.

 For the rest, we refer to our above-mentioned article from January this year, where the basic principles and settings of whistleblower protection are described in greater detail (more here).

On the approved and rejected provisions

Apart from the bill as a whole, the greatest stir was probably caused by the proposed provision that was supposed to introduce an obligation to accept anonymous notifications and thus provide protection to an anonymous whistleblower as well. This provision was ultimately not adopted after extensive debates at the Chamber of Deputies. According to the current draft bill, only persons, whose identity can be inferred from the notification, are protected as whistleblowers.

Compared to the originally proposed wording, an amendment has been approved to extend the list of facts that can be reported. The aforementioned list of reportable facts now includes not only criminal offences, breaches of EU legislation in specific areas and breaches of the Whistleblower Protection Act itself, but also misdemeanours, for which the Act provides for a fine with an upper limit of at least CZK 100,000. In other words, the list of offences that can be reported has now been extended to include more serious offences.

The current bill, which is now heading to the Senate, is therefore something of a compromise within the political spectrum. We shall see how the legislative process on this matter develops further.

Author: Veronika Odrobinová, Jessica Vaculíková