Whistleblowing – how to respond to reported irregularities and protect whistleblowers

An important element of the criminal compliance policy in an enterprise is to determine the proper way in which bodies respond to information received from whistleblowers i.e. persons reporting irregularities in the operations of a given entity.

The draft Act on liability for prohibited acts under punishment contains detailed regulations regarding the obligations of the bodies and in particular the body designated by the entrepreneur to supervise compliance with law and internal regulations in the event of receiving information on the preparation, attempting or committing a prohibited act, failure to fulfill obligations or abuse of powers, failure to exercise due diligence or other irregularities that may lead to committing a prohibited act.

The main task of the competent bodies in the enterpriser is to conduct explanatory proceedings and to provide the whistleblower with protection against the repression, discrimination or other unfair treatment. The Act provides the employee signalling irregularities and who is therefore subject to harassment, with special rights enabling the court to decide about restoring the employee to work or paying him compensation.

An appropriate response to information indicating the risk of committing a prohibited act or irregularities in organization is significant in the context of possible criminal liability of a collective entity. No reaction to signals from employees, failure to conduct explanatory proceedings or removal of identified violations may lead to increasing the penalty imposed on a collective entity. The court may order a fine to the double upper limit i.e. up to 45,000,000 PLN (forty five million PLN).

Due to the planned changes in the scope of criminal liability of collective entities, persons managing such entities should now create appropriate procedures and mechanisms to respond to irregularities reported by employees and other whistleblowers.