December 2021

Legal Alert Concerning Whistle-Blower Protection In Large Enterprises

When? The deadline for the implementation of Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law (commonly known as the whistle-blowing directive) is fast approaching. However, it is already clear that the deadline of 17 December 2021 will not be met by Polish legislators.

The bill on the protection of persons who report breaches of law, implementing the directive, is still subject to review, and it is unknown when the bill will actually be processed by the lower chamber of the Polish parliament. Additionally, the bill provides for a 14-day period of vacatio legis, i.e. the period between the publication of the act in the Journal of Laws and its entry into force. As a result, the new regulations will almost certainly not come into effect before the end of 2021. Despite the delay in the implementation of the directive, employers should not postpone dealing with the issue of whistle-blower protection.

Who? The obligation to establish an internal reporting channel will rest with private sector businesses employing at least 50 persons on the basis of employment or temporary employment contracts. For most employers, the implementation of this obligation will be postponed until 17 December 2023. However, businesses with at least 250 employees must be prepared to implement appropriate procedures from the day the act enters into force (potentially even at the beginning of 2022).

What? Under the bill, employers will be required to adopt internal reporting regulations specifying the procedure for reporting breaches of law and following up on such reports. The regulations will have to cover issues such as (i) designation of an organisationally independent unit authorised to verify and analyse reports, (ii) specification of response times, and (iii) provision of information on how to submit external reports (to competent administrative authorities).

How? The bill stipulates that the internal reporting regulations should be established by the employer in consultation with either the workplace union branch or employees’ representatives. The regulations will come into effect 2 weeks after being communicated to employees. Businesses with 50 to 249 employees will be able to fulfil their obligations in respect of report verification using resources shared between various employers (where a single unit or system is used by more than one employer).

Consequences? Business managers ought to keep in mind that failure to introduce internal reporting regulations carries a maximum penalty of 3 years’ imprisonment.

Employers should closely monitor the progress of works on the bill, as the details might yet change in the course of the legislative process.

For more details, expertise, or advice, please contact Jeremiasz Kuśmierz.

The publication is also available in Polish (PDF).