By December 17, 2021, Poland is obligated to implement the Whistleblower Directive on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law. The implementation will affect a wide range of companies, so employers should get ready to implement mechanisms designed for the protection of whistleblowers, especially in light of harsh penalties for noncompliance.
The Polish government’s bill on the protection of individuals reporting breaches of law was published only on October 18, 2021 and social consultations are currently underway. The bill is expected to be enacted by the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022. Despite the fact that its final wording is not yet known, we can assume that the content of the published draft will not change significantly, as the act should precisely implement the directive’s provisions. It is important to analyze the new duties of employers now, as they will greatly impact operations. The bill provides for severe penalties for managers in case of failure to implement these duties, including imprisonment for up to 3 years.
The bill stipulates that the fundamental obligation of employers will be to set up a whistleblowing system of internal communication channels for reporting breaches of law.
Employers will have to draft reporting regulations setting out rules for making and following up on such reports. A procedure for implementing such regulations includes an obligation to consult trade unions or employee representatives in the employer’s company, which in practice will result in the extension of the whole process.
Employers will have to keep a register of internal reports, and data from such reports will have to be retained for five years from the date of report acceptance. So these duties will entail additional burdens related to archiving and administration of report data.
The draft envisages harsh consequences for noncompliance. Whoever, contrary to the provisions of the act, fails to set up an internal procedure for reporting breaches of law and following up on them or where the established procedure fails to meet the minimum statutory requirements, will be subject to a fine, a limitation of freedom or imprisonment for up to three years.
These penalties are quite controversial, in particular due to the short time given to employers to implement the procedures.
Preparatory steps must be taken by employers from the public sector and those with more than 250 employees in the private sector, so they are ready to comply with the new obligations within 14 days of the act coming into force. Employers with 50 to 249 employees have more time to implement the provisions as the bill stipulates that in their case it must be done by December 17, 2023.