New legislation protecting 'whistleblowers' at work is due to come into force in early 2015.
The National Council has passed a bill offering protection for employees who report their employer's crimes or other anti-social activities, such as unethical or wasteful conduct.
The protection applies to any employee who, honestly convinced of the veracity of his statements, reports, in good faith, information which may contribute significantly to the elimination of anti-social activities and which he learned about in the exercise of his employment. Employee confidentiality obligations do not apply to such reports, apart from certain exceptions.
Serious anti-social activity includes criminal conduct such as corruption of public officials, of public procurement or public auction processes, or damaging the financial interests of the EU. It also covers criminal offences punishable with a maximum term of imprisonment exceeding three years or an administrative offence punishable by a maximum fine of at least €50 000.
Framework for protection
Employers with at least 50 employees will be required to create an internal system for handling employee reports of anti-social activities (discovered in the course of their employment). This requires employers to appoint a person in charge of the procedure, specify the methods in which reports can be submitted, keep a register of reports, publish the reports and results of the investigation and issue internal rules setting out other relevant details (with which all employees must be made familiar).
The methods in which reports can be submitted must be published and made available to all employees in an accessible manner. At least one method of submission must be available 24 hours a day. The employer is required to accept and investigate every report, keep the identity of the person submitting the report confidential and inform them of the outcome of the investigation within 10 days of their submitting the report.
Employers have 6 months from the date on which the legislation comes into force to comply with these requirements, or they face a penalty of up to €20,000.
Protection for employees
Employees receive two levels of protection from victimisation by their employer as a result of reporting anti-social activities.
Where the employee reports non-serious anti-social activities (discovered in the course of employment) under an internal reporting system, any legal acts against them by the employer may be suspended by the Labour Inspectorate if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the legal acts related to the employee's submission of the report. This protection is temporary and subject to an application for interim measures.
Where the employee reports serious anti-social activity (either a criminal or an administrative offence), the employee may, when submitting their report, apply for protection to the relevant body (depending on whether it relates to the criminal or administrative proceedings). Where protection is granted, the employer cannot take certain legal acts towards the employee without prior consent of the Labour Inspectorate (or of the employee himself). The employer must then justify the proposed legal act and prove that there is no causal link between it and the employee's submission of a report on its anti-social activities. This is decided upon in standard administrative proceedings, with a right of appeal for both employer and employee.
Employers who breach these obligations may face a fine from the Labour Inspectorate. Employee whistleblowers whose employment is unlawfully terminated in these circumstances can be awarded unlimited compensation for loss of earnings.
Employees who have already submitted reports of anti-social activities before the legislation comes into force may also apply for protection (once it takes effect). The legislation also extends the prohibition of discrimination in labour relations, stipulated in the Labour Code, to discrimination on the grounds of reporting anti-social activity.
Law: Act on Certain Measures related to the Reporting of the Anti-social Activities and on amendments of certain laws (passed in the National Council of the Slovak Republic, sent to publication stage, expected to be effective from 1 January 2015)