The new legislation in the area of reporting wrongdoing (whistleblowing), Act No. 4/2019 Coll. on Protection of Whistleblowers (the “Act”), entered into force on March 1, 2019.
Among other things, the Act regulates (a) the conditions for providing protection to persons in an employment or similar relationship in connection with reporting crime or other wrongdoing, (b) the rights and obligations of persons in reporting wrongdoing, (c) the establishment, status and competence of the Office for the Protection of Whistleblowers.
Under the new Act, a whistleblower may apply for protection in criminal proceedings as well as in administrative offence proceedings. Under certain circumstances, the new Act provides protection for a whistleblower also in the area of labor-law relations. The Act also provides for the extension of such protection to a whistleblower’s close person, provided certain conditions are met.
At the same time, the Act lays down the obligations of employers in connection with the establishment and operation of an internal system for verifying whistleblowing reports.
Under the new Act, the newly established Office for the Protection of Whistleblowers (the “Office”) will operate as an independent authority. The powers of the Office include supervisory powers in the area of regulatory compliance, decision-making powers in respect of whistleblower protection, as well as rights and obligations in the area of counseling and cooperation in the area of whistleblowing reporting. The Office may pay whistleblowers (under certain statutory conditions) a reward in an amount of up to 50 times the minimum wage. If an employer breaches the law, the Office may impose on the employer a fine of up to EUR 20,000.