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Protecting Whistleblowers

Persons reporting corruption will benefit from a tailored protection, regardless of the field of their company activity.

Country: France

Status: complete

Themes: Whistleblower/civil society space protection

Last updated: December 2020


Concrete: Somewhat Concrete | New: New | Ambitious: Ambitious

  • 2 Evidence:

    Sapine II

    DIRECTIVE (EU) 2019/… OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of … on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law

  • 3 Notes:

    By setting up a legal framework creating a legal status for whistle-blowers and organizing their protection in case of retaliation, the Sapin 2 has marked an unprecedented step forward for the protection of persons reporting corruption.

    One must, nevertheless, note that over the last four years in France, according to information available from public sources, no scandal of corruption has been made public knowledge thanks to a whistle-blower. One explanation is that whistle-blowers do not feel sufficiently protected to blow the whistle.

    In October 2019, the European Parliament and the Council adopted a directive on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law. France has to transpose this text before December 2021. It will be the opportunity to strengthen and simplify French national protection system for whistle-blowers and to improve its current framework based on the law “Sapin 2”.

    The European directive on the protection of whistle-blowers ends the obligation to report internally before turning to the authorities. The aim is to encourage companies to put in place effective and safe internal reporting procedures in order to effectively protect whistle-blowers and incite them to blow the whistle internally.

    Chapter 2 of Sapin II enshrines protection for whistle-blowers, which are defined as “any individual who reveals or reports, disinterestedly and in good faith, a crime or offence; a serious and manifest breach of an international commitment duly ratified or approved by France, of an unilateral act of an international organisation adopted on the basis of such commitment, or a serious breach of a law or regulation; or a serious threat or harm to the public interest, of which he/she has had personal knowledge.” Facts, information or documents, whatever their form or support, covered by professional secrecy (lawyer or doctor) and national defence secrecy are excluded from the scheme. To benefit from a protection, the law provides that a whistle-blower must first make its reports to a direct or indirect supervisor or a person appointed for this purpose and if not followed by any action, to the judicial or administrative authority, or the representative of a professional order. As a last resort, the report may be made public/reported to the press. The report may also be addressed to the defender of rights (“Défenseur des droits”) that will help direct it to the relevant authority in charge of collecting reports. Internal reporting procedures have to be implemented when certain thresholds are met, including where a company has of more than 50 employees. By adopting a single law, France has finally joined the pioneer countries by providing the means to effectively fight corruption and protect those who have the courage to denounce it.

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