Whistleblower Definition by the European Union (EU) Directive.

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The EU Directive define whistleblowers as “an individual and/or group of workers” reporting legal violations in the areas of public procurement, financial services, product safety, environmental protection, food safety, animal welfare, public health, consumer protection, personal data protection and more. The Whistleblower Directive offer protection to persons who report breaches of European Union law.[1]

Remarkably, the European Parliament on 16 April 2019 enacted the EU Whistleblowing Directive, which offers better protection to individuals when they step forward and publicly share negligent acts or corruption within organisations (i.e., current or previous employers). Signatories to the Union law have the option to introduce financial rewards. Individuals making disclosures have the rights to choose whether to report their concern internally or directly to the correct authorities. This implies that whistleblowers in EU Member States can go to the media if they believe their action is in the public interest. The Whistleblower Directive offers confidentiality to claimant regardless of how they choose to report the misconduct either in writing or via telephone hotlines.

However, as a result of the fragmented and cumbersome nature of the EU legislation, potential misconducts cases in EU Member States are never reported.  Additionally, the Directive’s definition of whistleblowing highlights a far-reaching and complex legal framework that institutionalises good corporate governance. Yet in reality, whistleblowers in EU Member States are initially celebrated in the media for their acts of bravery, but they are also subjected to scrutiny. This explains why whistleblowers in EU Member States suffer different forms of retaliatory actions from employers who are rarely questioned for coercing employees out of their jobs of firing them without legal consequences.

Thus, the EU definition of whistleblowing lacks direction and purpose aside of being an acceptable legal document which stipulates rules and regulations, as well as outlines coverage areas of whistleblower protection. It is noteworthy, that the EU Whistleblowing Directive is similar to the US legislations which entitle whistleblowers remedies in case of retaliation to prevent workplace harassment or dismissal. Individuals making disclosures are also granted free access to legal advice unlike UK’s PIDA which subject claimants to financial burdens of legal representation.


2.2.1. Lewis D. and Vandekerckhove W. on Whistleblowing

  Lewis and Vandekerckho[2] acknowledged that previous studies on whistleblowing have focused on the psychological and sociological profiles of whistleblowers in an attempt to understand workplace conditions that lead to external reporting. The cross-cultural research also analysed the underlying motives of whistleblowing to ascertain whether whistleblowers should be seen as heroes, villains, or simply employees taking their job responsibilities seriously. On the public and legal domain, the study analysed the management side of whistleblowing, with emphasis that organisations should establish responsive reporting channels and policies as part of best practice.

Furthermore, the scholars found that the principles and regulations in corporate governance do not provide detailed guidelines for internal reporting. Lewis and Vandekerckhove therefore analysed several policy documents such as: the ‘Recommended Principles for Whistleblowing Legislation’ from Transparency International (TI 2009); the Council of Europe Resolution 1729 (COER 2010); the ICC ‘Guidelines on Whistleblowing’ (ICC 2008)[3] ; and the EU Article 29 Data Protection Working Party Opinion (EUWP 2006) among other documents. Findings from the study showed that employees, suppliers, contractors, and former employees, including students, councillors, members of the public, and the self-employed can use content of whistleblowing policies in all EU Member States for better understanding of various legislations. Technically, this implies that everyone can be a potential whistleblower.

[1] European Parliament “Whistleblower protection regulation”                                             http://www.europarl,europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20190311IPR31055/first-euwide-protection-for-whistle-blowers-agreed (Date of use: 8 February 2021)

[2] Vandekerckhove W. & Lewis D. ‘The Content of Whistleblowing Procedures: A Critical Review of Recent Official Guidelines’ (2012) 108; 253-264 Journal of Business Ethics

[3] ICC ‘ICC guidelines on whistleblowing’ (2008) Paris: International Chamber of Commerce http://www.iccwbo.org/policy/anticorruption/iccccfee/index.html.


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