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high stakes Better whistleblower protections face resistance in Swiss parliament

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Latest study finds that suspected cases of corporate wrongdoing have been reported in about 35% of Swiss companies. 

(© Keystone / Christian Beutler)

Switzerland’s House of Representatives has knocked down a government proposal to strengthen protections for whistleblowers, drawing strong criticism from civil society groups.

On Monday, the house soundly rejected by 144 to 27 a proposal which sought to provide clarity on how and to whom employees can call foul on abuse or illegal actions by employers.

The government proposal outlined a sequential approach to flag wrong-doings: employees should raise issues with their employers first and then the relevant authorities, such as the police. After that, the whistleblower could go public in the case officials fail to act.

Parliamentarians on the left and right criticised the proposal for being too complicatedexternal link. Some argued that it didn’t go far enough to protect employees from dismissal.

There have been several failed attempts to strengthen protections for whistleblowers including in 2007 and 2015. It will now be up to the Senate to decide the fate of the proposal.

Political will

In an interview on Swiss public television SRF, managing director of Transparency International Switzerland Martin Hiltl strongly criticised the decisionexternal link. “The whole thing is frustrating. In 15 years, there has been almost no movement on this proposal.”

Hiltl argues that current laws in Switzerland are insufficient as there are currently no protections of whistleblowers in laws. “A whistleblower risks his or her job, may not find new work and may even be prosecuted,” Hiltl told SRF.

The non-governmental organisation argued last year that the government proposal was too weak and that Swiss lawmakers had consistently avoided providing adequate protections despite high profile cases of corporate wrongdoing in the country.

A study in mid-May found that suspected cases of embezzlement, tax fraud, money laundering and sexual harassment have been reported in 35% of companies in Switzerland. More than half of the Swiss companies in the survey comply with a new European Parliament directive to set up reporting offices for whistleblowing.

Keystone-SDA/SRF/jdp

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