The Integrity Talks

Implementing the Dutch Whistleblower Protection Act

The Integrity Talks

Implementing the Dutch Whistleblower Protection Act. Geert Vermeulen has drafted a 10-step plan to introduce or revise the whistleblowing procedure. If an organization has more than 249 employees, or if it is subject to financial or anti-money laundering (AML) legislation, they need to prepare now to be ready by March 2023 latest. Organizations with 50–249 employees have until 17th December 2023 to prepare themselves, though the earlier, the better of course. Think of the technical preparations, as well as appointing an independent coordinator.

10-step plan to comply with the Whistleblower Protection Act

Geert Vermeulen has drafted a 10-step plan to comply with the Whistleblower Protection Act. The plan starts with the answers to six key questions. Then, the whistleblowing procedure can be established and transmitted. The six questions:

  1. Do we need to launch a whistleblowing procedure? For which entities?
  2. What can be reported according to our procedure?
  3. Who is allowed to make a report?
  4. How do we set up oral/written/anonymous reporting channels?
  5. Who will be the independent coordinator(s) of the whistleblowing procedure?
  6. How do we secure the reporting channel and the register?

Once an organization has answered these questions, they can start working on the next steps:

  1. (Re)design the whistleblowing procedure and investigation protocol.
  2. Get approval from management and consent from the works’ council/employees.
  3. Ensure that management recognizes a whistleblower report, and knows what to do next.
  4. Transmit the updated whistleblowing procedure.

The House for Whistleblowers may impose sanctions if organizations do not comply with the law. Employees may go to the subdistrict court to enforce a proper procedure. Likewise, good to know that the works’ council should receive a report at least annually.

Best practices for international whistleblowing procedures

Earlier, Transparency International (see also their work on the Corruption Perception Index) reported on the best practices for internal whistleblowing procedures. A brochure was created with funding from the European Union, as part of the European ‘Speak Up Europe’ project. The motivation behind the project was to implement the European directive to protect whistleblowers.

Bribery, corruption, fraud, and other abuses are the issues that are exposed by whistleblowers the most. Whistleblowers usually report it internally first. That is why Transparency International advocates for whistleblowers protection, and why they encourage a solid and safe speak-up culture, which also helps organizations to reduce liability, and to improve their reputation and financial performance.

It is important that an organization chooses a set-up that fits its size and risk profile. It is recommended that anyone, related to the organization in a work-related manner, is invited to report, to allow a wide range of abuses, breaches of laws, and regulations. Likewise, the company’s code of conduct and internal procedures should be reported. This is not required by the law, but still very much recommended indeed. Reports should be followed up promptly, thoroughly, fairly, and impartially. During the process, whistleblowers should be informed regularly. They should be given the opportunity to respond and to supplement their report if necessary. All communication should be recorded properly and securely.

The whistleblowing procedure should be visible and easy to retrieve via multiple channels. It may even be shown to the public for full transparency. In general, the anonymous, reporting channel may be outsourced to a reliable, independent external party. Of course, the organization itself remains responsible for following up, and acting on a report. Management should ‘listen up’ more to commit to these new procedures, and to review annually.

Care should also be taken into account to ensure that whistleblowers will not get harmed or threatened. If it does happen, appropriate disciplinary action should be taken, and the victims should be compensated. In other words, throughout the process, whistleblowers should be supported, no matter what the motives are of the report. Naturally, the rights of the accused should be protected equally during the investigation.

Source: Geert Vermeulen.