Protection of reporting persons or the so-called whistleblowers (ZZPri)
17 February 2023
On January 27, 2023, the National Assembly adopted the Act on Protection of Reporting Persons - ZZPri, which establishes system mechanisms for reporting violations of applicable regulations and protecting whistleblowers. The Act transposes Directive (EU) 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law into the Slovenian legal system.
According to the new Act, a whistleblower or reporting person in a person who reports or publicly discloses information about violations, that he obtained in his work environment, and is entitled to protection under this Act if he believed, based on reasonable grounds, that the reported information about violations was true and at the same time submitted either an internal report, an external report or publicly disclosed information about violations. However, the Act does not protect whistleblowers who filed report after two years from when the violation stopped.
The Act prohibits any retaliatory measures against the whistleblowers, and in particular mentions e.g. prohibitions on termination of the employment relationship, suspension of the contract and transfer to a lower position.
At the same time, the law foresees a series of protective measures, among which are:
1. prohibition of disclosure of the whistleblower's identity and confidentiality (Article 6);
2. exclusion of the whistleblower 's liability (Article 21);
3. judicial protection and temporary provisions in case of retaliatory measures (Article 22);
4. free legal aid (Article 23);
5. compensation for unemployment (Article 24);
6. psychological support (Article 25).
The internal reporting route, through which the reporting person provides information on violations, must be established by entities in the public and private sector with 50 or more employees. Some entities with less than 50 employees, but at least 10 employees, must also establish internal reporting routes if their main registered activity is in the field of healthcare or in the field of collection, purification and distribution of water, sewage treatment, collection and removal of waste and its handling, obtaining secondary raw materials and in the areas of environmental sanitation and other waste management. At the same time, regardless of the number of employees, internal reporting routes are also established by ministries, administrative units, public agencies, the Court of Audit of the Republic of Slovenia, the Ombudsman, etc.
The establishment of the internal route for report is carried out by:
- specifying a special email address and phone number or other contact information for receiving reports;
- determining measures to prevent disclosure of the applicant's identity and
- appointing a confidant.
Entities must appoint a confidant among the employees who will handle reports of violations and provide information to the whistleblowers. An external service provider for receiving reports can also be designated.
The entity must establish such a procedure for handling the reports that enables the completeness, integrity and confidentiality of the information, and prevents unauthorized persons from accessing the content of reports, information about the reporting person and the persons affected by the report. It must also adopt an internal act, in which it must describe the internal reporting route.
The Act also stipulates an obligation to report to the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (by March 1 of the current year for the previous year) on the number of received, anonymous and substantiated reports and on the number of considered retaliatory measures.
It is necessary to pay attention to the deadline for establishing an internal reporting route, which varies depending on the number of employees, namely:
- entities in the private sector employing 250 or more employees and entities in the public sector must establish routes for internal reporting in accordance with Article 9 of the Act within 90 days from the day that Act enters into force;
- entities in the private sector, employing up to 249 employees, must establish routes for internal reporting in accordance with Article 9 of the Act by December 17, 2023.
The reporting person can provide information about the violation directly using the external route, if:
- the internal reporting route is not established;
- the internal report could not be handled effectively;
- if the reporting person believes that there is a risk of retaliatory measures in the event that he submits an internal report.
Article 14 of the Act defines all entities for external reporting, which must appoint one or more persons for this purpose and adopt an internal act in which they describe the external reporting process and make an assessment of the effectiveness of the internal procedures for receiving reports and follow-up, which must be updated every 3 years. The Act also states that external reporting authorities must publish information related to external reporting on their website.
If there is no external reporting authority in the field to which the reported violation relates, the reporting person can file a report with the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption.
Public disclosure of violations
A reporting person who publicly discloses information about a violation is entitled to protection:
- if he first filed an internal or external report and no appropriate measure were taken to remedy the violation within 3 months of the report, or
- if he has reasonable grounds to believe that the violation may represent a direct or obvious danger to the public interest, in particular a danger to life, public health and safety, or if there is a risk of irreparable damage, or that in the case of an external report there is a risk of retaliatory measures, or there is, due to the specific circumstances of the case, little chance that the violation will be properly dealt with, especially when the evidence could be hidden or destroyed, or when the external reporting authority has colluded or is involved in the violation.
The Act enters into force 15 days after its publication, i.e. 22.2. 2023.
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