New EU protections for whistleblowers

The European Parliament has approved a new Directive to provide individuals who report wrongdoing greater protection. The new rules set out EU wide standards of protection for whistleblowers who reveal breaches of EU law across a wide variety of sectors.

The Directive introduces a variety of obligations for organisations (both public and private), including the requirement to implement a three tier reporting system. Tier one of the reporting system focusses on internal reporting within organisations, tier two provides an opportunity for external reporting to national authorities, and tier three permits whistleblowers to report to the public/media.

The Directive strengthens the protection of whistleblowers against retaliation (e.g. demotion or disciplinary action). It also introduces a reverse burden of proof whereby employers will have to demonstrate they did not act in retaliation, and gives whistleblowers further protection in judicial proceedings.

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 amended the Employment Rights Act 1996 to provide whistleblowing protection for workers in the UK. The introduction of this new Directive would, however, provide additional protection, not least because the definition of worker covers a wider group of individuals. It also widens the scope of reporting and provides protection for those that make reports to the media.

Before it becomes legally binding, Parliament will need to pass legislation giving effect to the Directive. Although the impact of Brexit on the implementation of this new Directive makes the situation unclear, it seems likely that the provisions will be incorporated into UK law in order to update the existing rules.

Our expert employment solicitors regularly advise both employees and employers on complex whistleblowing claims.  For further information, please contact our employment lawyers today for a confidential and no obligation discussion on 020 7956 8699 or email