Committing to Effective Whistleblower Protection

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16 Mar 2016
9789264252639 (PDF) ;9789264252622(print)

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Whistleblower protection is essential for safeguarding the public interest, for promoting a culture of accountability and integrity in both public and private institutions, and for encouraging the reporting of misconduct, fraud and corruption wherever it occurs. While many countries are increasingly developing legal frameworks to protect whistleblowers, more can be done to mainstream integrity and promote open organisational cultures. This report analyses whistleblower protection frameworks in OECD countries, identifies areas for reform and proposes next steps to strengthen effective and comprehensive whistleblower protection laws in both the public and private sectors.

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  • Foreword and Acknowledgements

    Whistleblower protection is integral to fostering transparency, promoting integrity, and detecting misconduct. Past cases demonstrate that corruption, fraud, and wrongdoing, as well as health and safety violations, are much more likely to occur in organisations that are closed and secretive. In many cases, employees will be aware of the wrongdoing, but feel unable to say anything for fear of reprisals, concern about acting against the organisation’s culture, or lack of confidence that the matter will be taken seriously. The negative implications of this are far-reaching for both organisations and society as a whole. Effective whistleblower protection supports employees in "blowing the whistle" on corruption, fraud or wrongdoing.

  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Executive summary

    Whistleblower protection is the ultimate line of defence for safeguarding the public interest. Protecting whistleblowers promotes a culture of accountability and integrity in both public and private institutions, and encourages the reporting of misconduct, fraud and corruption. Five years after the G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan highlighted the importance of protecting whistleblowers, the issue is gaining traction at national levels. Whistleblower protection contributes to an environment of trust and tolerance and enhances the capacity for countries to respond to wrongdoing and matters of public concern. However, much remains to be done to develop a climate of openness and integrity that enables effective whistleblower protection.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Whistleblower protection policies and practices

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    • Overview of global standards for whistleblower protection

      There is a general consensus among policy makers that effective whistleblower protection legislation is needed. Many OECD countries have introduced some form of legal protection for whistleblowers. The legal frameworks in place may be dedicated whistleblower protection laws or provisions found in one or more laws. This chapter provides an analysis of the legal frameworks in place in OECD countries to protect whistleblowers.

    • Public sector whistleblower protection laws in OECD countries

      The purpose of whistleblower protection is to protect individuals from being exposed and retaliated against for disclosing misconduct. Despite the common aim of whistleblower protection systems, the disclosure processes in place in OECD countries vary. This chapter analyses the varying elements and protections that countries have put in place and how they apply throughout disclosure processes, including: the scope of coverage and subject matter; reporting requirements; channels of reporting; fundamental safeguards, such as anonymity and confidentiality; and the prospect of incentives.

    • Public sector whistleblower protection in practice: to disclose, or not to disclose

      Whistleblower protection systems protect the identity of whistleblowers through measures of confidentiality, however, sometimes these protections can fail, or the identity of the whistleblower can be deduced. As a result, retaliatory and discriminatory actions may ensue. The majority of OECD countries provides protection from a broad range of reprisals and often apply disciplinary action as a sanction and reinstatement as a remedy for retaliation. This chapter analyses the mechanisms that have been implemented in OECD countries to protect whistleblowers from reprisal after having made a protected disclosure, including the reverse burden of proof, sanctions and penalties, the role of administrative appeals bodies, and available remedies.

    • Language, culture and raising awareness to encourage whistleblowing in the public sector

      Awareness raising is an important dimension of whistleblower protection, as it can help change the culture and language surrounding whistleblowing, and ultimately break down the barriers and negative connotations associated with disclosing wrongdoing. Nevertheless, almost half of OECD countries do not have awareness raising activities in place. Furthermore countries that provide whistleblower protection through provisions are far less likely to have these types of initiatives than countries with dedicated laws. This chapter examines the various awareness raising activities that have been implemented in OECD countries, and how they can encourage whistleblowing and promote an effective open organisational culture.

    • Whistleblower protection in the private sector

      This chapter describes different approaches to legislating for private sector whistleblower protection and accompanying recommendations for reform. It focuses on the practical application of dedicated whistleblower protection legislation and provisions within other laws to provide protection to private sector whistleblowers who report suspected wrongdoing, with reference to relevant case law. It also examines whistleblower protection from a business perspective, drawing on responses to the OECD Survey on Business Integrity and Corporate Governance, to illustrate how companies are organising themselves to provide protected reporting and to prevent retaliation.

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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Country case studies on whistleblower protection in the public sector

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    • Belgium (Flanders)

      The Flemish government has developed unique contact points through which to report wrongdoing to the relevant authorities: the Spreekbuis and 1700. These tailor-made channels are open to staff members and members of the public, and are responsible for receiving, registering and following through on integrity concerns. This chapter focuses on the central points of contact to report wrongdoing within the Flemish government authorities, and provides an overview of how these channels function, their scope, their impact, as well as their costs and benefits.

    • Canada

      Canada’s Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA) came into force in 2007 as part of the Government of Canada's ongoing commitment to promoting ethical practices in the public sector. Representing a renewed phase in the movement to build greater trust in Canada's public sector, the PSDPA provides federal public sector employees and others, such as contractors, with a legislated, secure and confidential process for disclosing serious wrongdoing in the workplace. This chapter provides an overview of: the legislation’s objectives; its design, including its implementing authorities; its scope regarding disclosure processes and reprisal mechanisms; and an overview of the associated impacts, challenges and risks.

    • Chile

      In Chile, the rules for regulating, encouraging and protecting the reporting of wrongdoing and breaches of probity were established with the enactment of Law No. 20 205 on 24 July 2007. This law contains provisions aimed at detecting, preventing and sanctioning conduct related to wrongdoing or corruption in the public sector, and can be considered an integral part of a broader system that regulates the conduct of public sector employees. This chapter provides a contextual background for the creation of the law, describes the scope of protection, the requirements for protection, the elements of disclosure proceedings, the mechanisms in place to protect from reprisal, as well as the progress and challenges that have emerged since the establishment of these rules.

    • Ireland

      Drawing on the experience of relevant legislations worldwide, Ireland enacted its Protected Disclosures Act, which came into effect in July 2014. This legislation marks an important new departure in Irish Law as it represents the first occasion on which an attempt has been made to put in place, in a single location, a framework for the protection of whistleblowers. This chapter provides an overview of the purpose, timing and key elements of this legislation, including the concerns that needed to be addressed, the legislative options considered, as well its overall scope.

    • Switzerland

      As a tool for combating corruption, whistleblower protection has become increasingly important in Switzerland over recent years. At present, there are two whistleblower protection systems, one for public sector workers and another for private sector employees. This chapter outlines the rules on whistleblower protection in the federal public sector and draws on the various legal standards for private sector employees, as of June 2015.

    • United States of America

      There is a growing body of statutory laws in the United States that provide protection to whistleblowers. This chapter will focus on the development of the modern federal whistleblower protection statutes, their origin in good government initiatives, the elements needed to prove whistleblower retaliation under the law, and the role of the US Office of Special Counsel.

    • Whistleblower protection provisions in the 41 Parties to the Anti-Bribery Convention
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