Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/02/16/workplace_whistleblowing/

Privacy rights of whistleblowers and their accused

EU Working Party reports

By OUT-LAW.COM

Posted in Media, 16th February 2006 11:30 GMT

Workplace whistleblowing schemes that exist to catch office thieves, crooked accountants or general misconduct and skullduggery, present data protection issues that have become the subject of new guidance from an EU Working Party.

The EU's Article 29 Working Party on Data Protection issued its opinion this month on whistleblowing compliance. Such opinions are not binding; but they are influential and will be of interest to any organisation looking to implement a whistleblowing scheme.

The Working Party reported that cultural differences around the EU have made it impractical to issue general guidance at this stage. It has therefore chosen to focus on those areas that need guidance most – especially those affected by new legislation such as the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which penalises firms that do not comply with whistleblowing rules.

Background

Whistleblowing schemes are designed to allow employees to report misconduct internally, providing an alternative to other internal management processes. They offer a safeguard against corporate wrongdoing and the employee is given certain protections to encourage use of the scheme.

But the schemes must be compliant with EU data protection rules, protecting both the whistleblower and the person accused of misconduct. Such compliance, says the Working Party, will both alleviate the risks of stigmatisation and victimisation and "generally contribute to the proper functioning of whistleblowing schemes".

The opinion

In its opinion, the Working Party does not consider employment or criminal issues raised by the schemes, but instead highlights how it believes some of the provisions of the EU Data Protection Directive should be applied. In particular it considers:

See: The Working Party Opinion (18-page / 101KB PDF)

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