Promulgated on the 15th of September 2013, the Protection of the Whistleblower Act (Chapter 527 of the Laws of Malta) (the “Act”) will be amended to be brought in line with Directive (EU) 2019/1937 to, amongst others, include protection of persons who report breaches of European Union law in key policy areas (the “Directive”), as adopted by the European Parliament and the Council back in 2019.
The Act grants protection to the Whistleblower against detrimental action which the employer may take in response to a protected disclosure, and is therefore, intended to encourage persons to disclose any improper practice witnessed in a work-related context. While the Act generally covers corrupt practices generally applied to money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as health and safety and environmental damage, the aim of the Directive is to expand the scope of personal protection, include, amongst others, breaches of EU law, privacy, and consumer protection to the definition of ‘improper practice’, and introduce a new layer of reporting in addition to internal and external disclosures, i.e. public disclosure, while recognising the key role of whistleblowing in safeguarding the welfare of society.
The Directive further provides that any personal data processed in the context of the Directive, is to be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the GDPR. Personal data that goes beyond the scope of the reporting process will not be collected or, if collected, deleted without delay.
With just a few days left until the 17th of December 2021 – being the deadline set for transposition by Member States into national law – Bill No. 249 Protection of the Whistleblower (Amendment) Bill (the “Bill”) is in its final stages, but what will the amendments mean for entities in the private sector? As a result of the additional obligations conferred, employers will now need to establish suitable and secure channels and procedures for internal reporting and record retention, ideally through the implementation of company policies.
The importance of having effective channels and procedures to facilitate internal reporting cannot be overstated. This enables companies to address issues internally and minimise the risk that their reputation or interests are harmed by exposure to the competent authorities or the public.
Accordingly, companies to which the revised Act will apply, are strongly advised to revisit and update their whistleblowing policies and internal reporting channels, to ensure compliance. Whilst a policy update is crucial, it is just as important to invest in the right training for employees and HR personnel, ensuring that the new requirements are fully grasped and observed.
Since the Directive is an instrument of minimum harmonisation, it will be necessary for companies operating across the EU to monitor the process of transposition of the Directive in the relevant individual Member States and identify any specific requirements imposed by national law.
With only a few days left for the relevant notice to be published in the Government Gazette, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us should you have any queries on the amendments or require any further information on these latest changes.