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Whistleblowing – the Biggest Compliance News since the GDPR. Are You Ready for It?

Whistleblowing – the Biggest Compliance News since the GDPR. Are You Ready for It?

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With the implementation deadline for the EU Directive on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law (17 December 2021) approaching, here is a summary of the current state of the respective national measures in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and an introduction to our own whistleblowing solution: FairWhistle.

CZECH REPUBLIC

There is an implementing bill currently passing through Parliament which will, however, be delayed if not passed into law before the October parliamentary elections. Importantly, the current Czech draft act contains significant deviations from the Directive.

As regards material scope, not only breaches of Union law in the areas prescribed by the Directive are to be reported in the Czech Republic but also:

The draft bill also decreases the threshold of 50 workers prescribed by the Directive for entities in the private sector so that the law should apply to employers with more than 25 workers. In addition, it does not work with gradual adoption as in the Directive but prescribes a single mandatory deadline for all the obligated entities to set up an internal reporting system by 31 March 2022.

SLOVAKIA 

In Slovakia, there is already – since March 2019 – a law regulating whistleblowing. The Slovak government has, however, yet to propose a bill adjusting the current whistleblowing law to the Directive. From what we know, the plan is to pass an amendment to the standing law that would bring it in line with the Directive.

The law as it is today requires adjustments to comply with the Directive on several points, including who is to be regarded as a protected whistleblower and who are the other persons concerned, what would count as a retaliatory measure, the various timelines for processing reports and providing follow up to the whistleblower, or the proper setting up of an external whistleblowing channel. It does not look like Slovakia will meet the 17 December 2021 deadline for that amendment to take effect.

NEXT STEPS

Although the Directive brings about a degree of uniformity across the EU block, it is likely that the Czech and Slovak local whistleblowing laws will differ and – as is customary in these latitudes – will also contain specific provisions going over and above the requirements of the Directive. Companies which already have in place whistleblowing schemes will need to reflect that and accommodate these differences.

One such example is the so-called “dedicated person” introduced by the Czech implementing bill. Reports may be channelled only to a dedicated natural person who receives and assesses the validity of a report, manages investigations and follow-ups and communicates with whistleblowers. Such person must be carefully selected and trained and their independence when dealing with reports must be ascertained.

We are following the legislative developments in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia closely and will inform you as it becomes clear when and how the Directive will finally be implemented in these jurisdictions.

FAIRWHISTLE

In order to help our clients comply with the new regulations, we have designed a comprehensive solution for implementing and managing whistleblowing systems which we call FairWhistle.

We are ready to tailor the entire system (also in view of the fresh ISO 37002 guidance), select the right reporting channels, including a modern web platform from renowned technology partners, prepare all documentation, including appropriate internal communication and training, and then provide support in assessing and investigating reports and act as a “dedicated person”. The objective is to help our clients reduce risk and administrative burden, build ethical organizations and increase their reputation in the marketplace.

With FairWhistle we are capable of providing a tailored and seamless whistleblowing solution to a company of any size or structure. If you are considering how to become compliant with the new rules, do get in touch with us to discuss how best to suit your specific needs.

By Robert Nespurek, Partner, Havel & Partners

Czech Republic Knowledge Partner

PRK Partners, one of the leading Central European law firms, has been helping clients achieve their business objectives almost 30 years. Our team of lawyers, based in our Prague, Ostrava, and Bratislava offices, has a unique knowledge of Czech and Slovak law and of the business environment. Our lawyers studied at top law schools in the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland and elsewhere. They also have experience working for leading international and domestic law firms in a number of jurisdictions. We speak your language, too. Our legal team is fluent in more than 15 languages, including all the key languages of the region.

PRK Partners has one of the most experienced legal teams on the market. We are consistently rated as one of the leading law firms in the region. We have received many significant honours and awards for our work. We represent the interests of international clients operating in the Czech Republic in an efficient way, combining local knowledge with an understanding of their global requirements in a business-friendly approach. We are one of the largest law firms in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Our specialised teams of lawyers and tax advisors advise major global corporations as well as local companies. We provide comprehensive legal advice drawing on our profound knowledge of local law and markets.

Our legal advice delivers tangible results – as proven by our strong track record. We are the only Czech member firm of Lex Mundi, the world's leading network of independent law firms. As one of the leading law firms in the region, we have received many national and international awards, in some cases several years in a row. Honours include the Chambers Europe Award for Excellence, The Lawyer and Czech and Slovak Law Firm of the Year. Thanks to our close cooperation with leading international law firms and strong local players, we can serve clients in multiple jurisdictions around the globe. Our strong network means that we can meet your needs, wherever you do business.

PRK Partners has been repeatedly voted among the most socially responsible firms in the category of small and mid-sized firms and was awarded the bronze certificate at the annual TOP Responsible Firm of the Year Awards.

Our work is not only “business”: we have participated on a longstanding basis in a wide variety of pro bono projects and supported our partners from the non-profit sector (Kaplicky Centre Endowment Fund, Tereza Maxová Foundation, Czech Donors Forum, etc.).

Firm's website: www.prkpartners.com

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