Slovak Republic: Protecting the whistleblowers

Author: | Published: 22 Jan 2015
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A new law came into force on January 1 2015, intended to protect and motivate whistleblowers. A whistleblower is a natural person who, in good faith, reports something they learn of while at work, that could significantly help to expose activities that are against the public interest. A report is made in good faith if the whistleblower, considering the facts of which he is aware and considering his knowledge, is convinced that what he is reporting is accurate. Apart from the enumerated exceptions (such as the protection of classified information, bank secrets and legal services), public interest reports and disclosures are not considered a breach of confidentiality. The primary goal of the law is to protect the whistleblower from retaliation by the employer. An employer can make a legal act or issue a decision relating to the protected whistleblower only with the consent of the whistleblower or with the prior consent of the labour inspectorate. The consent of the labour inspectorate is not required if the employer's act confers a right on the employee or if it is in relation to termination of employment not associated with the employer's evaluation. The labour inspectorate will grant the employer consent for the proposed act toward the protected whistleblower only if the employer can demonstrate that the proposed act has no connection to the report. If the employer cannot demonstrate this, the labour inspectorate will not grant consent. The legal act will be invalid without the prior consent of the labour inspectorate.

Serious acts against the public interest are unlawful acts which: (i) constitute defined criminal offences; (ii) carry a possible prison sentence where the upper limit exceeds three years; or, (iii) are administrative offences for which the upper limit of the possible fine is at least €50,000 ($57,800).

Protection should be sought at the time the serious act against the public interest is reported, or during the proceedings in the matter. The authority acting in the matter will provide protection immediately after it ascertains that the person seeking protection is a whistleblower, and it will then notify the labour inspectorate, employer and whistleblower of the protection. A protected whistleblower can be motivated not only by their own personal convictions, but also by the vision of a reward. A whistleblower can receive a reward of up to five times the minimum wage if their report aids in uncovering a serious act against the public interest.

Apart from reporting a serious act against the public interest, natural persons can also lodge a complaint (for less serious acts against the public interest). If after lodging a complaint the person who lodged it feels they are the subject of an employment-related act against them which they do not agree with, they can ask the labour inspectorate to suspend the effectiveness of that employment-related act. The labour inspectorate will immediately suspend the effectiveness of the employer's act for a period of 14 days from the day confirmation of that suspension is delivered to the employer, provided that a seven-day period is complied with and provided that the suspicion of the employment-related act is justified. Under this law, employers also have duties; for instance, those who employ a minimum of 50 employees must designate a person to receive and investigate every complaint. The designated person and instructions for lodging complaints must be made public and available to all employees. At least one method of lodging complaints must be available 24 hours a day. Employers must also issue an internal rule relating to lodging complaints, which sets out the details of lodging complaints, investigation of complaints, logging of complaints, confidentiality of the identity of persons who lodge complaints, informing the person who lodged a complaint of the action taken in response to the complaint, and the processing of personal data contained in the complaint. Employers must keep a log of complaints for a period of three years from the date the complaint was lodged. If an employer does not fulfil these obligations by July 1 2015, it could face a fine of €20,000. A fine of €500 can be imposed repeatedly on a natural person authorised to carry out legal acts on behalf of a legal person who is obstructing the labour inspectorate.

Daniel Futej Radka Sláviková-Geržová Martin Ilavský