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Protection Whistleblowers to get new legal guidelines

Shredded documents

Shredded documents, one example of illicit behaviour

(Keystone)

Workplace whistleblowers are to be better protected by law, the government has proposed. But a transparency group says the move does not go far enough.

The government wants a multi-level model: first those involved are to go to their employers, then the relevant authorities, such as the police. After this, the whistleblower should be allowed to go public if officials fail to act.

A previous bill was sent back by parliament in 2015 for being too complex.

The latest proposal aims to give clarity, as employees currently don’t know if they can denounce and to whom. Employers are also unclear about how to react, the government explained.

This leads to conflicts and illegal actions like going public straightaway, a statement released on Friday saidexternal link. It added that companies might also not report issues because they cannot foresee what the consequences will be.

A company can then try and sort out the problems itself and to set up a service for dealing with whistleblowing. Anonymous denouncements are permitted.

What counts as irregularities are violations of administrative and criminal law, other legal regulations and going against internal regulations.

Being fired

What the bill does not do is bolster the protection for employees whose jobs are terminated after they have blown the whistle.

This has been criticised by the non-governmental Transparency International Switzerland. While it welcomed the general tenor of the proposal, until it was accompanied by more protection from being fired, it would remain “a dead letter”, the organisation said in a statementexternal link. Transparency also found the conditions for reporting issues to the authorities and the public too restrictive.

The issue of whistleblower job protection has long divided lawmakers. It was first debated in 2008. For some, it is deemed superfluous; for others - on the left of the political spectrum - measures should go further and include the reintegration of the whistleblower into the workplace.

Scandals such as the Panama Papers and Cambridge Analytica were brought to light by whistleblowers. The European Union announcedexternal link a proposal to better protect whistleblowers in the spring of this year.

SDA-ATS/ilj

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