The proposed EU Whistleblower Directive. If you haven’t yet focused enough on your ethics and compliance culture, now is the time to start.

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As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. The brain processes visual elements quicker than text.

The EU recently approved a proposal for a directive that will affect every company operating in the EU. Every company should be asking itself, “are we doing enough to promote a culture of trust, integrity and ethics?”

The directive in question is the EU Whistleblower Directive. It is important not only in what it does specifically, but also for the implications it has regarding companies’ commitment to ethical behavior overall.

In a nutshell, the proposed law does the following:

1. Establishes public reporting channels where workers can report violations of EU law.

2. Protects all workers from retaliation when they make reports in good faith.

3. Requires certain companies to implement internal, confidential reporting channels and all necessary policies and procedures to support them, according to directive requirements. Companies required to implement such channels include:

  • Companies with 50 or more employees;

  • Companies with turnover or total assets exceeding € 10 million; and

  • All financial service firms and firms vulnerable to money laundering and terrorist financing, regardless of their size or turnover.

The proposed directive is significant enough in what it specifically requires. However, its implications go much deeper. Simply put, if your company has not yet focused on how to promote a culture of trust, integrity and ethics, you should do so now.

This is because a reporting hotline is just one small part of an effective ethics and compliance program. In order to build an ethical culture, a company needs all of the following:

  • commitment and ownership from the board and senior management

  • a person or group responsible for running the program

  • periodic risk assessments

  • standards, policies and procedures

  • communications and training

  • reporting mechanisms and methods for following up on reports

  • methods to ensure continuous improvement

Once the proposed directive takes effect, we can expect an increase in reports of wrongdoing. As workers will be protected from retaliation, they should be more willing to come forward when they witness wrongdoing.

Is your company ready?

“Legal design should not be done just for the sake of design.”

Design also has an important role in protecting and carrying out the rights of individuals. Legal content concerns regular people who have no judicial background or experience. For example, the decisions of the court are binding, but does everyone fully understand the content without the help of an expert? Justice should be understandable and available for everyone. The authorities typically quote sections and articles of different regulations that are far from simple. At this point an average person would ask: what is an article? For a person to be able to use their rights, he/she needs to be aware of them and in addition know how to use them.

“Justice should be understandable and available for everyone.”

Judicial texts are often perceived as boring and hard to comprehend. Successful legal design takes into consideration the needs of the user and the content is portrayed efficiently and transparently, which increases user-friendliness. The need for legal design is apparent and thus it should be utilized more.