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Will new provisions increase whistleblowers protection? HFHR on international standards

In early August the Ministry of Justice requested the HFHR to present the Foundation’s position on the planned changes in law designed to increase protection of whistleblowers.

In its position, the HFHR focuses on legal standards developed by the Council of Europe and the United Nations stressing primarily that protection of whistleblowers should by as broad as possible. According to international guidelines, a whistleblower is any worker who discloses in good faith any irregularities that threaten public interest. By way of example, a whistleblower would be a nurse reporting violations that endanger the health of patients staying at a hospital in which she is employed.

In the HFHR’s opinion, the legislator should not make protection dependent on the basis of a whistleblower’s employment relationship, i.e. whether he or she works under an employment contract, a civil-law contract or as a volunteer. Similarly, the scope of protection should not be affected by a specific, personal motivation of a whistleblower and should not be limited to the disclosure of potential offences. It has also been pointed out repeatedly that whistleblowers should be protected from any retaliatory actions, including work dismissal, demotion or the reduction in remuneration. Equally important is to ensure that any retaliatory practices will not go unpunished. This may be achieved by introducing compensatory or even criminal liability.

The HFHR has many times brought up the topic of whistleblowers protection stressing the urgency for giving this issue a comprehensive regulatory framework. The HFHR has recently issued a guidebook for persons wanting to disclose irregularities they know about (“I know and I will tell. Protection of whistleblowers and journalistic sources. Practical guide.”)

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