Legal protection of whistleblowers (whistleblower)
In July 2022, the Federal Cabinet had approved a government draft for the Whistleblower Protection Act (HinSchG). On December 16, 2022, the new law was passed in the Bundestag in its second and third readings. In the next step, it must now pass through the Bundesrat and will then - presumably - come into force in Germany in May 2023.
The Whistleblower Protection Act (HinSchG) is the German implementation of the EU Whistleblower Directive, which aims to establish standardized protection for whistleblowers throughout the EU for the first time. The Act regulates the protection of natural persons who have obtained information about violations in the course of their professional activities and pass this information on to internal or external reporting bodies (whistleblowers). The Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits any reprisals or retaliation against whistleblowers.
The EU member states had until December 17, 2021 to transpose the EU requirement into national law. Such a law was and is overdue, because until now whistleblowers have been inadequately protected from reprisals or negative consequences. In Germany, the "Act on the Protection of Business Secrets" (GeschGehG) was only a first step toward whistleblower protection in 2019.
What do companies now have to adjust/prepare for? Organizations with 50 or more employees must implement secure whistleblower systems, but companies with 50-249 employees still have a transition period until December 2023. The procedure for submitting a report must be possible orally or in writing and, if desired, in person. The internal reporting office must then confirm receipt of the report to the whistleblower within 7 days. Within three months, the reporting office must then inform the whistleblower what measures have been taken as a result, e.g., the initiation of internal investigations or the forwarding of the report to the competent authority.
Our PBC legal team will be happy to advise and support you in the practical implementation of whistleblower protection, whether through contractual arrangements or in-house implementation steps. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
Author of this article and
Attorney at Law | Labor Law Specialist
Dr. Philipp Bollacher
Attorney at Law | Specialist in Commercial & Corporate Law