At its today’s sitting, the Legal Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu (Parliament of Estonia) decided to send the Bill intended to regulate reporting breaches of European Union law and the protection of persons who report breaches in the areas relating to the largest cash flows, corruption risks, distortions of competition and damages to the first reading at the plenary sitting of the Riigikogu.
Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee Eduard Odinets said that the Bill would help companies detect significant breaches and ensure the confidentiality and protection of reporting persons. “In the future, the employees will have the possibility to inform the employer in a secure manner when they see that something is done wrong at the workplace. It is of course possible to report problems now, but the Bill will help ensure that breaches can be reported without having to fear loss of work or unfair treatment,” Odinets said. “If a company creates the necessary channels for reporting of breaches, it shows a wish to prevent breaches and eliminate them as soon as possible.”
It was pointed out at the sitting that the Bill would be applied to reporting of breaches in such areas as public procurements, prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing as well as public health. It will be possible to report internally or to a competent authority, and the whistleblower must have grounds to believe that the information is true. It was also noted at the sitting that several companies were interested in reporting channels and the new Act so that the employees would not be discouraged to inform the employee of potential breaches and the problems could be solved internally.
According to the Bill, knowingly reporting wrong information would be punishable. Hindering reporting or retaliating against whistleblowers would also be punishable. Thus, the rules to be established by the Bill would help preclude malicious reporting.
Currently there is no common and cross-sectoral whistleblower protection regulation in the Estonian law. In the future, administrative agencies, enterprises having 50 or more workers and municipal agencies will have the obligation to establish internal reporting channels. The amendment is connected with the whistleblower protection directive of the EU, and the Bill will focus narrowly on reporting breaches of European Union law. The Member States were obliged to transpose the directive by December 2021.
Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet and Mare Tannberg, Adviser at the Department of Criminal Law and Procedure of the Criminal Policy Division of the Ministry of Justice, participated in the sitting and presented the Bill.
The Legal Affairs Committee decided to send the Bill on the Protection of Persons Reporting Work-related Breaches of Union Law (257 SE) initiated by the Government, to the first reading at the plenary sitting of the Riigikogu on 18 October.