The Estonian government on Thursday approved a bill aimed at providing protection to whistleblowers who have become aware of an infringement in the course of their employment.
In order to protect whistleblowers, conditions will be created to ensure that they should not risk losing their job or any other type of unjustified unequal treatment by their employer.
This means that firstly, confidentiality must be ensured for reporting infringements and the whistleblower must be informed about the action taken with regard to their infringement notice.
Infringement in this context means first and foremost legal breaches, that is unlawful activities or inaction but also unlawful acts that formally do not constitute offenses.
Institutions and legal entities with more than 50 employees must create an internal notification channel enabling whistleblowing.
If internal reporting proves inefficient, it must be possible to report violations externally to agencies that generally handle the corresponding infringements, for example, fire safety violations must be reported to the Rescue Board. Protection will also be made available if offenses are reported to the public but under more limited conditions.
The obligation to create secure internal channels will apply to all legal entities with more than 50 employees, local government agencies or agencies managed by public authorities, and all state agencies. The channel can be a separate email address, phone number or mailbox. A notification channel must also be created by all local governments that have more than 10,000 people residing in their territory.
Authorities and legal entities must have an employee who receives the notifications, passes them on and gives feedback to the informer.
The obligation of creating an external notification channel lies with state agencies that conduct supervision of infringements or handle offenses in certain fields.
The law will enter into force on June 1, 2022. Legal entities with 50-249 employees will have a longer time to create an internal communication channel and must establish it by December 17, 2023.
Editor: Helen Wright