On 24.10.2022 the bill of the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law has been brought to the parliament. The bill is an act of transposition of Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2019. The aim of the bill is to guarantee effective legal protection of persons who report breaches of Union law. The bill also aims to provide a more effective legal regulation of the reporting breaches of Union law that are harmful to the public interest and thus improve the implementation of the EU law and the effectiveness of the Bulgarian law.
The bill introduces methods of effective protection for people working for public or private organizations, who report breaches of Union law or of Bulgarian law. The bill is part of the National recovery plan which has to be carried out until the end of the year.
By reporting breaches of Union law that are harmful to the public interest, such persons act as ‘whistleblowers’ and thereby play a key role in exposing and preventing such breaches and in safeguarding the welfare of society. Unfortunately, many people are afraid to report breaches (both concerning European and Bulgarian laws), because they worry that there might be unpleasant consequences. That is why providing effective protection for the so called ‘whistleblowers’ is of immense importance.
The bill concerns people working either in employment relationship, or in the state service. The Bill is applied to public sector employers (except for municipalities with population less than 10 000 citizens) and to private sector employers with 50 or more employees. For those with a number of employees between 50 and 249 a different regulation is also proposed. Affected by the Bill are the employers of companies regardless of the number of their employees if their activity falls within the scope of certain EU acts.
According to the Bulgarian legislation there are a lot of public authorities, competent for controlling the process of reporting breaches in the Union law. Every institution, where Bulgarian citizens could hand in their reports, has specific structures that help in the process of checking out the reported breaches. The current system, however, has proved to be ineffective. Moreover, in the private sector there are not any legal terms regulating reporting channels. That is why the bill suggests that there should be only one competent state authority managing the filed reports. That way the regulation of the matter could be unified and made more efficient. The state authority, suggested in the bill is the Counter-corruption Commission.
The creation of internal channels for filing reports by employers, that could ensure the integrity and confidentiality of information submitted is also envisioned by the Bill. The aim is to promote the use of these channels and to achieve that, the employers must ensure the protection of individuals and provide clear and easily accessible information on whistleblowing options and procedures. When a report is filed an internal check should be carried out by the administrator in accordance with the procedure established by the law.
The bill guarantees protection against retaliation. Protected will be not only the whistleblowers but any other person, related to them. In addition, the mass media and any other person spreading information through the Internet or through social media will be protected as well.
The whistleblowers would not be fired, punished or offended on their workplace according to the bill. Anyone who tries to violate the bill, will be held responsible for their actions. The personal data of every whistleblower are protected as well.
For any further information, please check out the original text of the bill here. You could also read the full text of the transposed directive here.
You could also read addition material on the provisions of the directive here.