On 21 February 2023, Law 2/2023 on whistleblower protection was adopted by the Spanish Government. The new law aims to make it easier for employees to report illegal or unethical behavior without fear of retribution.
In our post below, we cover latest requirements for your whistleblower hotline.
Trisha Cole (written in English, machine translated)
Spanish Businesses Now Required to Install Whistleblower Hotline:
Spain has seen an increase in the incidence of whistleblower within its businesses and corporations, with a majority of reports involving suspected fraudulent activity. To address this, in 2023 the Spanish Government has put in place a comprehensive set of whistleblower laws, designed to protect and empower employees to report such activity.
Spain is the 18th EU member state to adopt the EU Whistleblower Directive, which is aimed at unifying the patchwork of whistleblower laws across the member states. All EU entities were required to transpose the Whistleblower Directive by 17 December 2021, though Spain and other countries have failed to meet this deadline. It is not clear what consequences will follow this delay.
The 2023 Whistleblower Protection Laws is a comprehensive set of laws which establish a framework for organisations to protect whistleblowers who raise awareness of issues within the bounds of organisations or government bodies. These laws shield whistleblowers from harassment and discriminatory practices, both internally and externally, and provide a secure and legitimate avenue for reporting wrongdoings.
The 2023 Whistleblower Protection Laws guarantees external safety and security measures i.e. protection from physical harm and legal repercussions; internal safety and security measures i.e. opportunities for confidential reporting, recourse for retaliatory and discriminatory practices, and confidential support and representation; and a fair and impartial process for review of reports and application of sanctions when appropriate.
The 2023 Laws provide protection in the event of threats to the rights, safety, and well-being of whistleblowers, where the protection includes the right to take legal action or receive compensation in return. Further, the law aims to maintain the anonymity of the whistleblower and any other particulars that could be considered prejudicial.
Lastly, the 2023 Whistleblower Protection Laws promote and encourage whistle-blowing further with its Reward System, which incentivizes members of society to report any matters of significance by compensating them with financial rewards. This sums to create a secure, transparent and pervasive mechanism to maintain a legal standard of higher accountability and responsibility within the public, professional and private spheres of Spanish society.
Spanish Business Whistleblower Hotline Requirements:
Overall, the introduction of Spain’s 2023 Whistleblower Laws has created a comprehensive legal framework to protect and empower employees to report wrongdoing. With the imposition of substantial financial penalties for non-compliance, businesses now have a stronger incentive to ensure they have suitable policies and procedures in place. This should help to foster an internal culture of trust and transparency within Spanish corporations, ultimately leading to a safer and fairer business environment.
The first pillar of the Spanish whistleblower law is that all employees have a right to report any kind of wrongdoing, including accounting and financial irregularity, violations of legal or regulatory requirements, unethical behaviours, and other forms of misconduct. The law also grants certain protections for whistleblowers, including the right to anonymity and freedom from reprisals or discrimination. Additionally, whistleblowers will have access to legal advice and compensation in cases where they have suffered any financial or career consequence as a result of their disclosure.
The second key element of the Spanish whistleblower law is that it requires all businesses and corporations to have an effective whistleblower hotline in place to detect and report suspicious activities. Employers must provide clear and easily accessible information regarding whistleblowing procedures, as well as training and guidance on the verification of claims. Additionally, companies must appoint a compliance officer, who will be responsible for the company’s whistleblowing program, as well as a committee of people from different departments, convened to oversee its implementation.
Finally, the law provides for financial penalties for any employer who fails to implement a program for detecting and reporting suspicious activities. Penalties may include hefty fines and even criminal prosecution for corporations that fail to comply. As such, the introduction of this legislation should act as a strong incentive for businesses to ensure that their policies and procedures for detecting and reporting misconduct are up to date, comprehensive, and in line with the regulations set forth in the law.