Protection of whistleblowers – New aspects resulting from the publication of the October 3, 2022 decree10/10/2022
The law of December 9, 2016, known as “Sapin II” introduced the definition of whistleblower and the first measures to protect employees who “disinterestedly and in good faith” denounced facts of great “seriousness” committed within the company employing them, of which they had “personal” information, from any retaliation in terms of hiring, dismissal or remuneration.
The whistleblower was then required to contact a superior before being able to report the facts to the administrative or judicial authorities, if the reports could not be resolved internally.
The law of March 21, 2022 transposing the European Directive 2019/1937 has reinforced the whistleblower protection regime.
The French legislator reviewed the definition of a whistleblower, which is now defined as “a natural person who reports or discloses, without direct financial consideration and in good faith, information relating to a crime or offence, a violation or an attempt to conceal a violation of an international commitment regularly ratified or approved by France, of a unilateral act of an international organization taken on the basis of such a commitment, of the law of the European Union, of the law or of the regulations, or of a threat or prejudice to the general interest. “
It also extends the protection of whistleblowers to any person who reports facts that are reported to him or her without necessarily having had personal knowledge of the facts.
The implementation of an internal reporting channel
Since September 1, 2022, companies with more than 50 employees are required to implement, after consultation with the social and economic committee (staff representative body), an internal whistleblowing procedure relating to the collection and processing of reports or disclosures made by employees.
The decree of October 3, 2022 specifies that the limit of 50 employees is assessed at the end of two consecutive fiscal years and is determined in accordance with the provisions of Article L. 130-1 of the Social Security Code.
The internal whistleblowing reporting channel must provide guarantees for the impartial handling of whistleblowing and ensure the confidentiality of the information collected, in particular with regard to the identity of the author, who may remain anonymous.
The decree of October 3, 2022 specifies that the employer is now required to respect a maximum period of seven days to acknowledge receipt of the alert to the employee who made the alert; it is then required to observe a reasonable period of time, not exceeding three months following the notification of the alert, to inform the employee, of the action taken or planned to remedy the subject of the alert.
The decree of October 3, 2022 also confirms the possibility for a group of companies to set up a single reporting channel for the group, subject to a concordant decision by the competent bodies of each of the companies in question. Also, companies with fewer than 250 employees may decide to share their reporting channels for collecting and processing reports.
Choice of reporting channel:
Employees now have the choice of going directly to the competent public authority if they wish to report or reveal facts committed by the company that employs them, that may constitute a crime, an offence, a threat or prejudice to the general interest, without having to refer the matter internally in the first instance.
The decree of October 3, 2022 provides for a broad list of public authorities competent to handle whistleblower reports, depending on the field concerned. For example, the “Direction Générale du Travail” (DGT) is responsible for dealing with reports concerning individual and collective labor relations or working conditions. The “Autorité des Marchés Financiers” (AMF) is recognized as being responsible for handling employee alerts relating to the prevention of money laundering and the financing of terrorism; the “Direction générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes” (DGCCRF), is responsible for handling alerts relating to product safety and conformity or to public procurement.
By Jennifer Carrel, partner and Agathe de Champsavin, associate
– Law n°2016-1691 of December 9, 2016 on transparency, the fight against corruption and the modernization of economic life
– Directive EU 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019 on the protection of persons reporting violations of Union law
– Law n°2022-401 of March 21, 2022 aimed at improving the protection of whistleblowers
– Decree no. 2022-1284 of October 3, 2022 on the procedures for collecting and processing whistleblower alerts and setting the list of external authorities established by Law no. 2022-401 of March 21, 2022 to improve the protection of whistleblowers