Slovenia increasing protection of whistleblowers

Protesters holding banners and whistles in support of whistleblowers.
The National Assembly passes a law to better protest whistleblowers. Photo: STA

Whistleblowers in the public and private sectors in Slovenia will enjoy better protection under a bill passed by the National Assembly on 27 January. The law sets down avenues to report breaches of legislation and includes a ban on retaliation and an obligation to protect a whistleblower’s identity.

The act transposes an EU directive that was supposed to be implemented in national legislation by December 2021, so Slovenia already received a reprimand. But the government says the act is broader than the directive and refers to reporting of violations of any rules, not just EU regulations.

The law will also apply when irregularities are reported anonymously and includes a broader list of protective measures than the EU directive, the government said. It creates systemic mechanisms to report violations and to protect those who report them.

It introduces rules for more than 2,500 companies in the private and public sectors with more than 50 employees on how they need to set up internal channels to allow reporting of irregularities. Reports through external channels, such as regulators or inspection services, will be processed by 24 state supervisory bodies.

The act also defines the safeguards and support measures for whistleblowers to prevent retaliation, especially by employers, and thus bans lay-offs, bullying or transfer to a less paid job. Whistleblowers’ identity will also be protected.

Should employers resort to retaliation, whistleblowers will be entitled to judicial protection, free legal aid, unemployment benefits and counselling.

The new law also envisages greater involvement by the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption in work with whistleblowers and allows NGOs to be granted the status of an organisation working in the public interest under certain conditions.

The new legislation was passed by 52 votes in favour and 23 against. The opposition Democrats (SDS) argued that the national solution was set out too broadly, covering violations of all rules that applied in the country.

A particular grievance was that it will also apply to the private sector and impose additional obligations on companies. The party argued that the EU directive should have initially be transposed only for the public sector, and after a few years an assessment be made whether similar terms should also be enforced for the private sector.