Whistleblower bill back in the Sejm

12 June 2024 | Knowledge, News

On 23 May, the Sejm (the lower house of the Polish Parliament) passed a bill on the protection of whistleblowers. This is yet another version of this document, which we have previously written about here. At the beginning of June, senators presented their amendments to the bill. The Sejm wants whistleblowing to cover abuses in the field of labour law, while the Senate thinks this is unnecessary. We summarise what has changed from the previous versions, what needs special attention and what amendments the Senate has made.

Common internal whistleblowing procedure for group companies

Following numerous requests from employers’ organisations, MPs decided to modify the rules on the implementation of the whistleblowing procedure in companies belonging to a single group.

Under the original version of the bill, only private companies with between 50 and 249 employees were allowed to establish common rules for the acceptance and verification of internal reports and the conduct of an investigation, provided that they ensured compliance of the procedures with the act.

In the course of parliamentary work, this possibility has also been extended to private entities that are members of a group of companies (within the meaning of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 16 February 2007).

In practice, such an amendment means that a single internal reporting procedure can be developed and implemented for use in all group companies.

Whistleblowing can also cover labour law issues

Another important change proposed by the Sejm was the extension of the closed list of areas in which whistleblowers can report violations to include labour law.

This may be important in the context of policies against bullying, discrimination and unequal treatment in employment that many employers have in place.

If the bill extends to employment law, employers will need to undertake a thorough review of any internal policies in this area and bring any existing policies into line with the whistleblowing and whistleblower protection policy.

Changes to definitions and scope of application of whistleblower provisions

The bill fine-tunes the glossary of statutory terms.

For example, the definition of a person associated with a whistleblower has been changed. Previously, this was a person who might suffer retaliation, including a colleague or family member of the whistleblower. Now, however, the circle of family members has been limited to persons referred to in Article 115 § 11 of the Criminal Code of 6 June 1997 – (Journal of Laws of 2024, item 17).

Therefore, only the following should be considered as family members associated with the whistleblower:

  • Spouse
  • Ascendants
  • Descendants
  • Siblings
  • Relatives in the same line or degree
  • Adoptees and their spouses
  • Life partners

The range of cases in which the whistleblower provisions will not apply has been extended.

Indeed, in accordance with the latest bill, the Whistleblowers Act will not be applicable not only to information covered by the provisions on the protection of classified information, but also to other information that under generally applicable laws is not subject to disclosure for reasons of public security.

Senate proposes changes for employers

The Senate has tabled a total of five amendments to the Whistleblowers Act. The most important one concerns the removal of labour law as an area where whistleblowers could report violations.

The senators took into account the fact that the Directive, which is being transposed into Polish law, does not mention labour law in the list of areas in which violations must be reported under the whistleblower protection provisions.

The senators believe that the Directive deliberately excluded this area of law. This is because EU labour law, including the Polish Labour Code, contains a number of guarantees protecting employees who disclose violations of the law, i.e. the aforementioned protection against bullying, discrimination or unequal treatment in employment.

The bill, together with the proposed amendments, will return to the Sejm for a vote. If the Sejm approves the Senate’s labour law amendment and the President of the Republic of Poland signs the bill into law, the above-mentioned obligations of employers to implement an internal whistleblowing and whistleblower protection procedure or the need to review internal anti-bullying and anti-discrimination procedures, will no longer apply.

When will the legislation come into force

In accordance with the bill, the new regulations would enter into force three months after their publication. The exceptions would be the provisions of Article 5(4), Article 25(1)(8) and Chapter 4, which would come into force six months after their promulgation.

The Act does not provide guidance on how to deal with internal whistleblowing procedures that businesses have put in place. There is no doubt that if such documents are found to be in any way inconsistent with the Whistleblowers Act, they will have to be repealed.

Any questions? Contact us

Angelika Stańko

Urszula Wójcik

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Angelika Stańko

Angelika Stańko

Attorney-at-law / Senior Associate / Labour Law

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