Slovak Republic - Whistleblowing Laws in Europe: An international guide

Por

1) Local Laws

a) Has the country implemented any laws / regulations on whistleblowing (Local Law)?

Whistleblowing in Slovakia is regulated by Act No. 54/2019 Coll. on Protection of Whistleblowers of Anti-social Activities and on the Amendment of Certain Acts (the “Act”). Additional regulations on whistleblowing exists in other acts including:

  • Act No. 301/2005 Coll. Criminal Procedure Code, as amended.
  • Act No. 483/2001 Coll. on Banks and on the amendment of certain acts, as amended.
  • Act No. 311/2001 Coll. Labor Code, as amended.

2) Scope of application

a) What types of wrongdoings are covered by the Local Law? Does it cover breaches of EU law?

Under the Act there are two types of report regarding wrongdoings:

  • Report about the facts relating to an anti-social activity that a person has become aware of in connection with the exercise of their employment, profession, position or function, or in connection with an activity in the public interest.
  • Qualified report, which may or has contributed to the clarification of serious anti-social activity or to the identification or conviction of the offender. A serious anti-social activity, which the whistleblower is entitled to disclose to the employer under the Act, includes inter alia criminal offences of damaging financial interests of the EU, criminal offences of deceitful practices in public procurement and public auction, and criminal offences of corruption.

b) Personal scope

  1. Does the Local Law apply to reporting persons working in both the private and public sectors?

  2. The Act applies to the private and public sectors e.g. to employees, civil servants and to other persons, such as police officers, firefighters, customs officers and professional soldiers. The Act protects the whistleblower if they report the facts they have discovered in connection to the performance of their employment, occupation, position or function or in relation to a public interest activity and connected to the wrongdoing.

  3. Does the Local Law apply only to breaches that the reporting person became aware of in a work-related context?

  4. Yes, the Act regulates the conditions for providing protection to persons in a work-related context in connection with the reporting of crime or other anti-social activities.

  5. Does the Local Law also protect: facilitators; people connected to the whistleblower and who could suffer retaliation in a work-related context; and legal entities the whistleblower owns, works for, or is otherwise connected with?

  6. The Act does not protect facilitators but according to the Act, a person closely related to the whistleblower is also considered to be a whistleblower, if that person is in an employment relationship with:

    • The same employer as the whistleblower.
    • The employer who is a dependent person in relation to the whistleblower’s employer.
    • The employer that has been established by the whistleblower’s employer.

c) Does the Local Law require specific conditions to protect reporting persons?

Yes, the Act requires as condition for protection of reporting persons their good faith; the whistleblower is a natural person who, in good faith, notifies the authority competent to receive the report, the Whistleblower Protection Authority (the “Office”) or their employer. If the reporting person does not act in good faith, they are not entitled to protection.

3) Reporting channels

a) Does the Local Law allow anonymous reports? How are companies/agencies meant to handle them?

The Act does not explicitly indicate if anonymous reports are allowed. According to the Act, the report is an indication of any facts relating to anti-social activity and a qualified notice is an indication of facts that may help to clarify serious anti-social activity. From the above and based on the fact that the Act does not prohibit the submission of anonymous reports, it can be concluded this is possible.

b) Is there a duty of confidentiality and any derogation from this duty?

Yes, according to the Act, an employer with at least 50 employees and an employer that is a public authority with at least five employees is obliged to maintain the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s identity when examining a report. The employer is required to issue an internal regulation specifying the details of maintaining confidentiality about the identity of the whistleblower. Breaching the obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s identity is an offence and could be sanctioned with a fine of up to EUR2,000.

Generally, according to Act, the report of anti-social activity is not a breach of the contractual obligation of confidentiality, even if it is an obligation arising from the performance of employment, position or function. This does not apply to specific sensitive information such as: classified information; postal secrets; trade secrets; banking secrecy; telecommunication or tax secrecy; confidential statistical data; data from medical records; the duty of confidentiality of members of the intelligence services; and the duty of confidentiality in the provision of legal services.

c) Public disclosures: does the Local Law provide for this possibility?

No, there is no regulation in this respect.

4) Reporting channels: internal

a) Is there an obligation for private and/or public legal entities to establish channels and procedures for internal reporting and follow-ups?

According to the Act, an employer with at least 50 employees and an employer that is a public authority with at least five employees is required to issue an internal regulation specifying the details of:

  • Filing of reports.
  • Verification of reports and authorisations of the responsible person in the verification of reports.
  • Maintaining confidentiality about the identity of the whistleblower;
  • Registration of reports.
  • Informing the whistleblower of the result of the verification of their report.
  • Processing of personal data referred to in the report.

The employer is obliged to designate an organisational unit or a person (so-called responsible person) who performs tasks including:

  • Examination of whistleblower’s report within 90 days of its receipt.
  • Report to be given within 10 days as of the examination of the whistleblower’s report, containing the following information:
    • result(s) of the examination;
    • measure(s) taken following the examination.

b) Do internal reporting channels need to allow reporting in writing, orally or both?

The Act does not set forth specific requirements in this respect. However, the Act stipulates that the employer has a duty to take appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure and demonstrate compliance of the internal investigation system with the Act in regard to the latest knowledge, costs and purpose of the internal investigation system. We assume these measures may cover both oral and written submissions.

c) Procedures for internal reporting and follow-up: does the Local Law require legal entities to adopt internal reporting systems with the following elements?

  1. Channels able to ensure the confidentiality of the identity of the reporting person and the protection of third parties mentioned in the report:

  2. The employer is obliged to maintain the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s identity when examining the report. In addition, the employer is required to issue an internal regulation specifying the details of maintaining confidentiality about the identity of the whistleblower. Breaching the obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s identity is an offence and could be sanctioned with a fine of up to EUR2,000.

  3. Acknowledgement of receipt of the report to the whistleblower within seven days of receipt:

  4. The employer is obliged to maintain the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s identity when examining the report. In addition, the employer is required to issue an internal regulation specifying the details of maintaining confidentiality about the identity of the whistleblower. Breaching the obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the whistleblower’s identity is an offence and could be sanctioned with a fine of up to EUR2,000.

  5. The designation of an impartial function/team to manage follow-ups on reports and maintain communication with the whistleblower:

  6. As already mentioned, the employer is obliged to designate an organisational unit or so-called responsible person who performs tasks including:

    • Examination of whistleblower’s report within 90 days of its receipt.
    • Report, to be given within 10 days as of the examination of the whistleblower’s report, containing the following information:
      • result(s) of the examination;
      • measure(s) taken following the examination.

    The responsible person may or may not be an employee of the employer. Therefore, the responsible person is allowed to perform their duties on a contractual basis. The responsible person shall be a qualified professional in order to maintain their tasks according to the law.

    The responsible person performs their tasks independently, responsibly and is bound only by instructions of the statutory body of the employer or of the statutory body of the parent company. Duties of a responsible officer may be performed by the Board of Directors or its members. Then, binding instructions for a responsible officer do not apply. The employer shall not retaliate against a responsible officer for performance of their tasks and duties. The employer is obliged to provide them with the necessary co-operation in order to perform their tasks and duties. In particular, that means providing them with sufficient resources and the employer is obliged to give them access to personal data and documents.

  7. Any other follow-up requirements including those for anonymous complaints:

  8. The employer has a duty to inform the whistleblower about the outcome of examination and about the measures, if taken, within 10 days after the investigation of the complaint. If the investigation of the report was referred according to the Criminal Code, the Code of Administration Offences or a statutory law, a responsible officer has a duty to request the result of the investigation and to inform the whistleblower about this result within 10 days after receiving such information.

  9. A reasonable timeframe to provide feedback, not exceeding three months from acknowledgment of receipt or if no acknowledgement was sent, three months from the expiry of the seven-day period after a report is made:

  10. According to the Act, the employer is obliged to receive and verify each report within 90 days of its receipt. It may extend this period for a further 30 days. The employer is obliged to notify the whistleblower about verification of the report within 10 days of the verification. If the investigation of the report was referred according to the Criminal Code, the Code of Administration Offences or a statutory law, a responsible officer has a duty to request the result of the investigation and to inform the whistleblower about this result within 10 days after receiving such information.

  11. Providing clear and easily accessible information on internal reporting procedures and external reporting procedures to competent authorities and/or EU institutions/bodies:

  12. Pursuant to the Act, the designation of the responsible person and the ways of reporting must be published and accessible to all employees in the usual and commonly available way, so that at least one method of reporting must be accessible at all times. The following duty is to make information about the internal system of investigation of the complaints available in a concise, comprehensible, clearly worded and easily accessible form. The Act also obliges the employer to facilitate reporting.

  13. Should legal entities take any additional measures in order to comply with the above requirements?

  14. According to the Act, the employer is obliged to take appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure and demonstrate that the internal system for verifying reports is carried out in accordance with the Act. If an employer fails to fulfill any of the obligations imposed by the Act, it may be fined up to EUR20,000.

5) Reporting channels: external

a) Has the country designated a competent authority to receive and investigate whistleblower disclosure and retaliation complaints?

Under the Act, the Office will be established as an independent body of state administration. The Office’s tasks are, in particular, to decide on matters of protection of whistleblowers, to monitor the application of the Act, and to provide expert opinions and advice.

b) Is an independent and autonomous external reporting channel already established in the country?

The Office does not exist yet and its competencies are currently split between labour inspectorates and the Ministry of Justice. However, in February 2021 the chairman of the Office was elected. According to the available information, the Office should become operational within about 6 months.

6) Processing of personal data

a) Is personal data concerning the reports processed in compliance with local and EU legislation such as EU Regulation 2018/1725 and local privacy laws?

The Act stipulates that for the purpose of protection of whistleblowers, the employer has a duty to publish an internal regulation in which they specify the details of processing the personal data contained in a disclosure. The Office is entitled to process personal data to the extent necessary for the performance of its tasks.

Although the Act does not give any more guidance on this issue, entities are required to treat data in compliance with applicable data protection laws.

7) Record keeping of reports

a) Is there any obligation regarding record keeping of reports as provided for by the EU Directive?

For the purpose of protection of whistleblowers, the employer has a duty to publish an internal regulation in which they specify the details about record keeping of the complaints. The employer is obliged to keep a record of the complaints for at least three years from the date of disclosure. The record should include:

  • Date of receipt of the complaint.
  • Name, surname and address of the whistleblower.
  • Subject of the report.
  • Outcome of the examination.
  • Date of the end of the examination.

The employer has a duty to take appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure and demonstrate compliance of the internal investigation system with the Act.

8) Protection

a) Is there any difference between whistleblower protections in the private and public sectors?

The Act applies to both the private and public sectors. The Act affects employers who employ at least 50 employees and employers who are public authorities with at least five employees. Such employers have a duty to:

  • Designate a responsible officer.
  • Issue or update an internal regulation on details of investigation of disclosures.
  • Investigate every report on wrongdoing.
  • Keep a record of complaints.

b) Are whistleblowers protected against all forms of retaliation including threats and attempts of retaliation? Which forms of retaliation are expressly indicated?

According to the Act, the employer may undertake a legal act or issue a decision in an employment relationship against a protected whistleblower to which they have not given consent only with the consent of the Office.

If the whistleblower considers that an act by an employer (e.g. termination of employment relationship) has been performed against her/him in connection with a report, they may request the Office to suspend the effectiveness of the employer’s act within 15 days from the day they became aware of it.

The Office shall immediately suspend the effectiveness of the employer’s act if the time limit has been complied with and if the employer does not prove within a reasonable period determined by the Office that the employer’s act has no causal connection with the report. The Office shall issue a certificate of suspension of the employer’s act and deliver it to the employer and the whistleblower.

Furthermore, special protection is also granted to the whistleblowers in criminal proceedings and administrative proceedings.

c) Does the Local Law provide for any other measures of support such as those indicated in the EU Directive?

No, the Act does not set forth any specific requirements in this respect.

d) Does the Local Law provide for the necessary measures to prohibit any form of retaliation against whistleblowers?

Yes. According to Act, an offence is committed by a person who:

  • Makes an employment act against the whistleblower without the consent of the Office, if consent is required, or penalises the whistleblower in connection with the submission of the report.
  • Violates the duty of confidentiality of the identity of the whistleblower.

For an infringement of the above, the Office may impose a fine of up to EUR2,000.

The Office may impose a fine of up to EUR20,000 on an employer who fails to comply with any of the obligations relating to the internal system for verifying reports.

e) Does the Local Law provide for any remedial measures, including interim relief measures?

No, the Act does not set forth any specific measures in this respect.

f) Does the Local Law provide for exemptions from liability for whistleblowers?

Generally, according to the Act, the report of anti-social activity is not a breach of the contractual obligation of confidentiality, even if it is an obligation arising from the performance of employment, position or function. This does not apply to specific sensitive information such as: classified information; postal secrets; trade secrets; banking secrecy; telecommunication or tax secrecy; confidential statistical data; data from medical records; the duty of confidentiality of members of the intelligence services; and the duty of confidentiality in the provision of legal services.

g) Does the Local Law provide for sanctions against natural and legal persons that violate whistleblowers’ protection or the duty of maintaining the confidentiality of their identity?

Please see previous answer 8) d).

h) Does the Local Law provide for sanctions in case of false reports?

Under the Act, the protection of a whistleblower ceases to exist upon:

  • Conviction of the protected whistleblower for the offense of false accusations or for the offense of false testimony and false perjury in connection with the making of a qualified report.
  • Delivery of written report of the body that gave protection to the employer, if it is proved that qualified report was not made in good faith.

9) Other issues

a) Under the Local Law, is adopting a whistleblowing system relevant to assess the adequacy of a compliance program? Does this have any value to mitigate or eliminate criminal liability for legal entities?

Until now, only a few cases have been investigated according to the Act. Thus, the relevance of the Act is to be assessed in the future.

b) Does the Local Law or another law in your country provide for whistleblower reward programs?

Yes, the Office may provide a pecuniary remuneration of up to 50 times the minimum wage to a whistleblower who made a qualified report and filed a request for renumeration. The Office may grant such renumeration provided that certain conditions are met:

  • In criminal proceedings:
    • An indictment was filled.
    • A proposal has been submitted for the approval of an agreement on the admission of guilt and the acceptance of a sentence.
    • The court settlement has been approved and the prosecution has stopped.
    • The criminal prosecution has been conditionally suspended.
  • In administrative proceedings, the decision on committing an administrative offence came into force.

An application for remuneration may be made by the whistleblower to the Office within six months of the date of receipt of the report that one of the conditions stated above has been met.

In deciding on an application for remuneration, the Office shall take into account the extent of the whistleblower’s merits in clarifying the serious anti-social activity, identifying the perpetrator, the whistleblower’s lost earnings, and the extent of the seized or returned property, if quantifiable. To that end, the Office shall seek the opinion of the prosecutor or administrative authority which has acted in the matter. The Office shall decide on the application for remuneration within three months from the date of its delivery. Please note, there is no legal claim to the remuneration of the whistleblower and therefore the Office is not obliged to grant the whistleblower renumeration.

c) Can companies benefit from any incentives in the case of voluntary self-disclosure of violations they became aware of following an internal report?

No, there are no such incentives.

d) Will implementing the EU Directive create any issues with obligations provided for under other laws / regulations?

Certain issues may arise with the transfer of data between specific entities involved in whistleblowing protection. These issues begin with the employer, who is obliged to create a supervisory body: a person responsible for whistleblowing proceedings. The employer has to implement measures that establish a flow of information toward the responsible person and protect the identity of the whistleblower.

The Act also describes a new Office for the protection of whistleblowers. However, the Office is not yet operational and its competencies are split among other institutions. Please note that in February 2021 the chairman of the Office was elected. According to the available information, the Office should become operational within about 6 months.

All entities falling within the scope of the Act will need to implement measures that comply with the Act.


Return to Overview page

For a pdf of the full guide please click on the button below.

Contenidos del número