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France adopts new whistleblowing law

France adopts new whistleblowing law.

Just ahead of the 17th December 2021 deadline, France adopted a new whistleblowing law to transpose the EU Whistleblowing Directive.  The new whistleblowing law goes beyond the Sapin 2 law, and also beyond the EU Directive. It is also referred to as the Wasermann law.

A few weeks before France take over presidency of the European Union, it wants to be a driving force on the subject. France, ‘the country of Human Rights’ notably imposes criminal and civil sanctions on organisations that fail to comply.

Protection of whistleblowers

As a reminder, the law concerns companies with more than 50 employees. It also includes administrations with more than 50 agents and municipalities with more than 10,000 habitants.

The text in the new law defines the whistleblower as “a natural person who reports or discloses, without direct financial compensation and in good faith, information relating to a crime, misdemeanor, threat or damage for the general interest”. The law still provides safeguards. For example, facts and information covered by the secrecy of national defense and that of judicial deliberations or medical secrecy.

The new French law also specifies that organisations diversify their available reporting channels to validate their approach. Such as by providing an online whistleblowing system and physical post box.

Sanctions can be applied

The new law goes beyond the European Directive, as it provides sanctions against those who disclose or fail to protect the identity of the whistleblower.

Organisations who purposely seek to block a whistleblower with abusive measures, or subject them to reprisals and intimidation, will be punished with three years imprisonment and 60,000 euros in fines.

Failure to put in place a procedure to collect reports is considered an obstacle for someone to make a report. Therefore, the new law requires, as an “obligation to ensure wide publicity of internal reporting channels”, that an inspector ensures a reporting channel is provided.

Changes from the previous whistleblowing law in France

Notable differences compared to France’s Sapin 2 law is that the new whistleblowing law provides for the use of an external channel. The whistleblower can choose between making a report internally with the promise of anonymity. He or she can also report to an independent external authority listed for instance with the French Anti-Corruption Agency or the Defender of Rights. They will then transfer the report to the relevant authority.

Clarity of communication deadlines

The whistleblowing law also states a maximum timeframe for handling a report. As some organisations could be tempted to claim a lack of understanding in order to not follow up on an report. Organisations have a period of three months “to provide information to the author of the report”.

Want does this mean for your organisation?

Would you like to know what this new law means for your organisation? Get in touch with our Territory Manger in France, Iliesse Aichi, who will be happy to explain.

Would you like to learn more about a whistleblowing service and safe internal reporting channels? Read more about the EU Whistleblowing Directive here.

Are you looking for a safe and secure whistleblowing solution? Read more here.

Would you like to discuss a whistleblowing system for your organisation?
Please contact us or book a free demo!

If you have any thoughts about this article or would like to know more about Whistlelink, we’d love to hear from you.

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