The Norwegian Working Environment Act in Norway for whistle-blowing and ethics are regulated in the Norwegian Working Environment Act (WEA), chapter 2A. The regulation came into force on 1 July 2017, and requires all companies that regularly employ five or more employees to have a whistle-blowing policy.
A whistle-blowing policy must comply with some minimum requirements, including:
- An encouragement to report critical circumstances in the company
- Procedures for how a notification can be submitted and to whom
- Procedures for receipt, processing and follow-up of the notification
In addition, the policy shall be prepared by the employer in cooperation with the employees and their elected representatives, and shall be easily accessible to all employees in the company.
All employees have a right to report censurable conditions at the employer’s undertaking, including activity that is deemed illegal, unethical or incorrect within the organization. The right also applies for workers hired from temporary work agencies.
In some cases, the employees are also obligated to notify. This is the case if the employee becomes aware of harassment or discrimination at the workplace.
When making a notification, the employee shall proceed responsibly, reasonably and properly. Furthermore, the employee shall do what is reasonable to present the correct facts. The employee shall also notify in a way that is not harassing to an individual or destructive to the working environment. In practice, this requires the employer to have a scheme, a specific whistle-blowing email or another safe channel that safeguards these notifications.
Protection of whistle-blowers
According to the regulation, retaliation against an employee who notifies of concerning censurable conditions at the company is prohibited. The employer has to do a proper due diligence of the notification sent in by the employee and not question the validity of the notification.
An employee who has been subjected to retaliation from the employer or others may claim compensation without regard to the fault of the employer or hirer. The compensation shall be fixed at the amount the Norwegian court deems reasonable in view of the circumstances of the parties and other facts of the case.
The protection of whistle-blowers is strengthened with regards to notification to public authorities. Therefore, when a supervisory authority or other public authorities receive notification concerning censurable conditions, only the persons working with the relevant case have access to the whistle-blower’s name or other information identifying the whistle-blower.
The regulation does not regulate an employee’s right to notify anonymously. However, several companies have regulated routines for anonymous whistle- blowing in their whistle-blowing policies.
Country-by-country and EU whistle-blowing rules need to be taken into account in setting the best practices and policies in this growing area of risk, including what an employer must do when faced with a whistle-blower claim, such as whether an investigation is required, protections of the employee who complained of company practices and litigation issues.
Best practice requires companies to take action in advance by creating a hotline and training its employees in ethical behavior.