Whistle-blowing in Slovakia is governed by Act No. 307/2014 Coll. on Certain Measures Relating to Reporting of Anti- Social Activity and on Amendments and Supplements to Certain Laws (referred to as the Whistleblowing Act), effective 1 January 2015. It provides a legal framework for whistle-blowing in both private and public spheres and guarantees protection of the whistle-blower.
Who is a whistle-blower?
The Whistleblowing Act defines the whistle- blower as an individual who submits a bona fide notice with defined content to a relevant authority as well as his or her family member if they have the same employer.
The whistle-blower may seek protection, in accordance with the Whistleblowing Act, if the report contains information about serious illegal activities of which they became aware in connection with his or her employment. Reports may also be filed anonymously.
Legal protection of whistle-blowers
Whistle-blowers may request the authority’s protection against potential retaliation from their employer when submitting a report, or at any time during the subsequent investigation. The authority verifies whether the individual fulfills the definition of a whistle-blower and then notifies the employer concerned. Upon delivery of such a notice to the employer, the whistle-blower is then considered a so- called protected whistle-blower. This means certain labor legislation applications to the whistle-blower are subject to prior approval by the competent Labor Inspectorate.
This approval should be granted without undue delay or within 30 days in more complicated cases.
After the reported illegal activity has been taken into criminal or administrative proceedings, the whistle-blower may request a discretionary reward from the Ministry of Justice amounting to a maximum of 50 times the minimum wage (currently approximately €24,000).
Employers with more than 50 employees and public bodies are obliged to introduce a “whistle-blowing mechanism,” including an internal reporting system and a contact person. The contact person can be an employee or a contractor.
Codes of ethics
Many employers in the private sector issue their own codes of ethics, either to comply with requirements imposed at a global level by their parent companies or to increase professional behavior standards. Codes of ethics shall be implemented in the same way as any other internal regulations issued by employers.
Industry-wide codes of ethics are common in certain occupations distinguished by greater professional independence. In the public sector, issuance of codes of ethics is regulated by specific laws.
Despite the scope of protection under the Whistleblowing Act, it has not been used in recent major whistle-blowing cases, and employees generally adopt a rather cautious attitude toward whistle-blowing.
Furthermore, it remains to be seen whether cases could descend into a “battle of forms” over the application of several codes of ethics in intracompany relations.
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.