In April last year the European Commission proposed a Whistleblowing Directive (the Directive) to protect whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law. The European Parliament has now adopted the Directive and it is expected that the European Council will approve it shortly.

Although many of the requirements are already familiar from the UK's whistleblowing legislation, there are some differences:

  • The protection extends only to reports of breaches of EU law in certain areas (including data protection and environmental protection);
  • Employers with 50 or more employees will be obliged to set up internal channels and procedures for employees to report and for following up on reports;
  • Specific requirements apply to those internal channels and procedures, including obligations to protect the confidentiality of complainants and timeframes for follow-up; and
  • External authorities to whom whistleblowers can report must also establish external reporting channels meeting specified criteria.

The text approved by the European Parliament also provides that the rights provided by the Directive "may not be waived or limited by any agreement, policy, form or condition of employment, including a pre-dispute arbitration agreement".

The significance of the Directive for the UK will obviously depend on Brexit. Employers with European workforces will want to monitor the Directive's adoption and its implementation in other member states.