Slovak Act No. 307/2014 Coll., on Certain Aspects of Whistleblowing (the “Act”) entered into force on 1 January 2015 and introduced the protection of persons reporting corruption behaviour and other antisocial activities (whistleblowers) against potential punishments by their employers. This legislation should promote disclosure, and avoidance of antisocial activities. The Act also introduces new duties for employers in this area.
Employers must set up a whistleblowing system and examine each report irrespective of whether it was filed anonymously.
Under this system an employer must:
- draw up internal guidelines;
- designate a responsible person; and
- keep records of reports.
The internal guidelines should provide details of how to:
- produce reports;
- respond to reports and check the responsible person’s authorisations in doing so;
- keep the identity of whistleblowers confidential;
- keep records of reports;
- notify whistleblowers of the outcome of their reports; and
- process personal data specified in reports.
Although these duties do not apply to all companies but only to employers employing 50 employees or more, all public authorities (such as state authorities, municipalities, higher territorial units and legal entities established by such authorities) must apply this Act irrespective of the number of employees.
In addition, Act No. 122/2013 Coll., on Personal Data Protection, which also applies to internal whistleblowing systems, stipulates the duty to set up an internal whistleblowing system. The basic requirement is to produce internal records, i.e. to fill in a prescribed form containing elementary information about the internal whistleblowing system.
However, companies usually set up their internal whistleblowing systems in a wider scope than that imposed by the law. This also includes reporting activities specified below and other antisocial activities, such as crimes with a maximum sentence of three years, or breaching an employer’s internal regulations or ethical standards. In such situations, producing internal records only is not enough; for notifying such a system is required, at the Office for Personal Data Protection; the Office, however, usually changes the obligation to filing for special registration. Personal data can start to be processed in a wider scope only after a special registration confirmation has been delivered. Failing to fulfil this duty may result in a fine of EUR 1,000 to EUR 200,000.
The Act protects individuals filing a report on information they acquire in connection with their employment, position or function and which may significantly contribute or have contributed to clarifying serious anti-social activities or identifying or convicting the offender. In addition to whistleblowers, the Act also protects their related persons, if they carry out work for the same employer.
The following crimes are considered as serious antisocial activities:
- damaging the European Communities’ financial interests;
- machination in public procurement and public auctions;
- crimes committed by public officials;
- crimes carrying a maximum sentence term exceeding three years;
- administrative offences that may be imposed with a maximum fine of at least EUR 50,000.
Increased protection of whistleblowers, reward, and free legal assistance
The Act is a direct incentive for whistleblowers to report anti-social activities. If the offender is convicted of a crime or an administrative offence, the Ministry may pay a whistleblower a reward 50 times the minimum wage.
If a whistleblower’s employment is terminated without valid reasons because of an unlawful sanction for whistleblowing, the salary compensation the whistleblower (employee) may claim from the employer is not limited. The whistleblower is also entitled to free legal assistance.
But more importantly, the Act also protects the whistleblower where the employer would like to retaliate against an employee, for example, by terminating their employment. If, for example, in a whistleblowing case the employer takes action to which the whistleblower does not agree, the whistleblower may approach the labour inspectorate, asking it to suspend the effectiveness of such action. The suspension ends upon the lapse of 14 days of the confirmation delivery. During this period, the whistleblower may ask a court to order a preliminary injunction. If, for instance, a protected employee has made a report on committing a crime, the employer may not issue a decision against such an employee without the labour inspectorate’s prior consent.
Risk of non-compliance
The internal whistleblowing system must be set up since 1 July 2015. Otherwise, a fine of up to EUR 20,000 may be imposed. According to our information, the Labour Inspectorate has not started inspections yet but it intends to do so soon.