Whistleblower Protection Act came into force on 02 July 2023: What you need to know about the new German Whistleblower Protection Act.
The Whistleblower Protection Act (HinSchG), which came into force in July 2023, represents a significant step forward in the protection of whistleblowers in Germany. In this article, we provide a comprehensive overview of the Act, explain its key provisions and show what impact it will have on whistleblowers and companies. Read on to find out how the law works, who is affected by it and why it is important for everyone in Germany to deal with it.
Current status of the Whistleblower Protection Act: What does the new law cover?
The Whistleblower Protection Act was introduced with the aim of improving the protection of persons who obtain information about violations of European Union law in the course of their professional activities. It establishes the framework for reporting such violations and creates mechanisms to protect whistleblowers from reprisals.
The law includes specific rules for internal and external whistleblowers, defines the process of reporting violations and the subsequent investigations, and sets out the measures to be taken to protect the whistleblower. It also contains provisions on fines for violations of the law.
Who is a whistleblower? How does the Whistleblower Protection Act define the term whistleblower?
According to the Whistleblower Protection Act, a whistleblower is a person who has obtained information about violations in the course of his or her professional activities. This can be employees or their representative bodies, but also persons who work for the internal reporting office in the course of their professional activities.
It is important to emphasise that the protection of the Whistleblower Protection Act applies not only to those who actually make a report, but also to those who are suspected of having made a report.
**What is an internal reporting office and what are its tasks under the Whistleblower Protection Act?
An internal reporting office is an institution within a company, a public authority or a church to which whistleblowers can report violations. According to § 16 HinSchG, the internal reporting office has the task of examining incoming reports and initiating appropriate measures. In concrete terms, this means that trained and suitable staff receive and process reports.
The internal reporting office has a central role in whistleblower protection and is to be set up for companies and other employers with 50 employees or more. It is not only the first point of contact for whistleblowers, but also responsible for initiating investigations and ensuring the protection of the whistleblower.
How does the process of reporting a breach work?
Reporting a breach starts with the whistleblower passing on the information to the internal reporting centre. The process of reporting must ensure that the identity of the whistleblower remains protected unless they choose to disclose their identity.
The IRO must review the report and decide what action to take. If the FIU considers the tip to be credible, it must take action to address the reported violation. The reporting office must also document the progress and observe storage and deletion periods for the communication.
What happens after a breach has been reported?
After a breach has been reported, the IO has a duty to review the report and take appropriate action to investigate and remedy the reported breach. It must also ensure that the whistleblower is protected from reprisals.
If the reported violation is not remedied within a period of 90 days, or if the whistleblower believes that the report has not been handled properly, he or she may refer the information to an external hotline.
**What are reprisals and how does the Whistleblower Protection Act protect whistleblowers from them?
Reprisals are negative measures taken against whistleblowers for reporting a violation. The Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits such reprisals and ensures that whistleblowers may not be disadvantaged or punished for reporting a violation.
Protection against reprisals is one of the central aspects of the Whistleblower Protection Act. It is necessary to ensure that people feel safe to report violations and to create an environment in which violations of European Union law can be detected and remedied.
**What is the role of external hotlines under the Whistleblower Protection Act?
External hotlines are entities outside the company or public authority to which the whistleblower can report violations if he or she believes that the internal hotline has not handled the reported violation properly or if he or she is subject to reprisals.
External hotlines have similar responsibilities to internal hotlines, including reviewing the report, initiating investigations and protecting the whistleblower. They play an important role in whistleblower protection by providing an additional layer of security and ensuring that violations can be properly reported and investigated.
The Federal Office of Justice: A key player in whistleblower protection.
The Federal Office of Justice is an important institution in the context of the Whistleblower Protection Act. It acts as a national external reporting office and has the task of examining reports and taking appropriate measures.
In addition, the Federal Office of Justice is responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act. It can impose fines on companies and authorities that violate the provisions of the Act.
Violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act: What are the penalties?
Violations of the Whistleblower Protection Act can have serious consequences for employers but also for whistleblowers. Pursuant to Section 38 of the Whistleblower Protection Act, companies can be fined for administrative offences.
Possible offences include failing to set up an internal reporting office, failing to protect whistleblowers and failing to respect the confidentiality of reports. It is therefore crucial for companies and public authorities to comply with the provisions of the Whistleblower Protection Act. Notwithstanding the legal requirements, however, there are much broader benefits for companies such as better public image and a better employer brand.
The Whistleblower Protection Act in an international context: The implementation of the EU Whistleblower Directive in Germany.
The Whistleblower Protection Act is the German implementation of the EU Whistleblower Directive, which ensures the protection of persons reporting breaches of Union law in all EU Member States.
It is part of a broader effort to strengthen whistleblower protection across the EU and to create uniform standards for reporting breaches and protecting whistleblowers.
Whistleblower Protection Act: What you need to know.
The Whistleblower Protection Act will provide better protection for whistleblowers and encourage companies and public authorities to create an environment in which breaches of European Union law can be uncovered and remedied. It is an important step towards more transparency and the rule of law in Germany.