Whistleblowers in an Organisation – difficulties employers will have to face

4 min.

Although we still do not have a full final version of the Polish Whistleblower Protection Act, we can already anticipate some of the difficulties employers might face in meeting the requirements imposed by the new legislation.

To date, one of the most serious challenges has been a short time window allowed for large companies (with more than 250 employees) to comply with the new rules.

Although the transition period of the law has been extended, it is already worth preparing for the upcoming changes. The multitude of new obligations can pose a significant challenge for companies, especially given the other anticipated legal changes, whether tax, consumer or employment law, that our organisations are likely to face in the near future.

The topic of whistleblowers has become the subject of lively discussions, raising fundamental questions about how to introduce internal procedures. Does it require complex preparation, documentation and arrangements? What is worth paying special attention to?

The answers to these questions on the whistleblower procedure depend to some extent on the specific employer. Nevertheless, there are a few common points that can be mentioned that play a key role:

  • Ensuring the proper functioning of the employer (compliance).
  • Effectively preventing the negative consequences of legal violations within the employer’s structure.
  • Creating a safe working environment, including whistleblower protection and the prevention of possible violations.

All of these aspects have a direct impact on the development of an employer’s business, while also shaping its reputation and relationships with employees and the business community. By following these principles, employers can effectively manage risks while protecting their organisation from potential threats.

With these considerations in mind, a properly designed and implemented internal whistleblower procedure should support an employer in developing its business, rather than hinder it achieving its objectives.

Given the legal requirements to consult with employee representatives or trade unions when creating an internal procedure, it is crucial that these procedures are designed so that employees and others who may be whistleblowers (such as contractors or service providers) have easy access to information and reporting channels. Ease of use and the availability of information are key to ensuring that everyone can use these procedures appropriately.

In terms of the practical aspects of implementing a whistleblower procedure, one of the key issues is the organisation of the reporting system (reporting channels).

For the employer, it is important to properly plan the structure of whistleblower reporting channels in such a way that the confidentiality of reports is guaranteed. Access to this information should be limited only to objective individuals who have been authorised in writing by the employer. Reporting channels should be intuitive to use and provide a secure environment so that a potential whistleblower can use them safely, feeling trusted and protected.

The European Union Directive and the draft Polish law stipulate that whistleblowers must have access to special reporting channels, allowing them to report both orally and in writing.

Oral reporting will be possible by telephone or through call recording systems (for example, on electronic platforms dedicated to reporting). Written reports can be submitted both in writing and electronically. It is important to establish the practicalities of the process.

Poland is required to implement whistleblower protection legislation for private entities, such as limited liability companies, with at least 50 employees, by 31 December 2023. In view of the upcoming deadline, it is advisable to conduct a detailed internal analysis within the organisation and to start preparing for the implementation of an internal whistleblower procedure.

It should be emphasised that the current version of the bill provides for a very short period in which to start implementing the procedure, amounting to only 14 days from the date of the act in its final form entering into force. Therefore, it is advisable to start proactively now in order to comply with these requirements within the set deadline.

Download “Newsletter No. 5 | 2023” as PDF

Contact us:

Attorney trainee in Poland
Agnieszka Słowikowska
Attorney at law
ECOVIS Legal Poland
+48 22 400 45 85

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This article is part of the Newsletter No. 5 | 2023.