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New legislation for the protection of whistleblowers – how will your company handle a whistleblower? 

by Rebecka Thorn, Josefine Wir

Published: June, 2016

Submission: June, 2016

 



A whistleblower is a person who raises the alarm or reports wrongdoing within their organisation. The Swedish Government is now proposing new legislation with the purpose of enhancing the protection of whistleblowers, to come into effect on January 1, 2017. Rebecka Thörn and Josefine Wir summarise the main points of the proposed legislation and give some advice on how your company can handle alarms raised by employees.


It is in the interests of the employer as well as the employee and the company or organisation that conduct harmful to the business comes to light and can be handled. However, research shows that many people refrain from raising the alarm because of fear of reprisals. This is one of the factors leading to the proposed legislation, consisting of a new law (hereinafter the “whistleblower act”) protecting whistleblowers from reprisals from the employer, as well as an amendment to the act on public disclosure and confidentiality under which the principal rule will be that a duty of confidentiality will apply to whistleblower cases.


Meaning and implication of the proposed legislation
The enhanced protection of whistleblowers in the whistleblower act consists of a statutory liability to damages for the employer who exposes an employee to reprisals, as a consequence of the employee raising the alarm. “Reprisal” means everything from termination and dismissal to reduced employment benefits or isolation in the workplace. According to the Government´s proposal, not only employees will be covered by the new law – agency staff are also to be protected from reprisals in the client company.



The whistleblower act distinguishes between internal and external alarms. Internal alarms are those directed to the employer or a representative of the employer, for example a senior manager, as well as alarms communicated through the employer´s internal whistleblowing system. External alarms are alarms directed to an authority or disclosure of information to the public. In the case of internal alarms it is proposed that concrete suspicions on the part of the person raising the alarm are sufficient for the enhanced protection to take effect. External alarms are to have higher requirements regarding the accuracy of the information provided, namely that the person raising the alarm has factual grounds for her allegation of serious wrongdoing. According to the proposed law, it is also, as a main rule, required that the employer first raises the alarm internally and gives the employer an opportunity to rectify the wrongdoing in question before the employee is entitled to raise the alarm externally.


For the whistleblower act to apply and to trigger protection against reprisals, an alarm must relate to serious wrongdoing. The requirement that it should concern serious wrongdoing if the notification is to be dealt with as a whistleblowing matter is already in place as a consequence of rules in the Personal Data Act.

 

 

 
 

 

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