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New legislation concerning whistleblowers in the Working Environment Act

News | 12.06.17

Employment law
New rules to strengthen the protection of whistleblowers were recently adopted by the Norwegian legislative assembly, and will be effectuated from 1 July. After the new legislation is effectuated, many employers are bound to put issues concerning whistleblowing on their agenda.

People walking

The main changes are among others; a requirement to develop notification procedures  for companies with at least five employees, an extension of the protection to include hired workers and a new provision of confidentiality.

Requirement to develop routines

Implementation of the new legislation introduces an unconditional obligation to establish whistleblowing procedures for companies with at least five employees. The present legislation is somewhat vague when it comes to which companies that are required to establish such routines. Therefore it was necessary to introduce rigid and clearer rules.

Under the new legislation, companies that regularly employ at least five employees are required to put in place routines for whistleblowing. Companies with fewer than five employees are required to prepare such routines if the circumstances surrounding the company indicate such a need. The routines shall be in written form and easily available for all employees, typically by being included in the staff manual or available on the companies intranet. The routines shall be drawn up in collaboration with the employees and the elected representatives, and shall encourage the employee to notify about critical circumstances, as well as state the procedure for whistleblowing in the company.

Extension of the protection to include hired workers

The present legislation has only governed the right for employees to notify about critical circumstances regarding their own employer. Hired workers have not been subject to the protection provided in the Working Environment Act and, consequently, have not been able to report on critical conditions in the company to which they are hired. With the implementation of the new legislation in the Working Environment Act, the scope of the rules are expanded so that hired workers also have the right to notify about critical circumstances in the company they have been hired to. The new legislation implies that hired workers will be protected against reciprocation both from their own employer and the company they have been hired to.

Confidentiality

The new legislation also introduces rules of confidentiality for the Labor Inspection Authority or other public bodies that receive notification of critical circumstances in a business. The rule of confidentiality implies that a supervisory body is obliged to conceal the identity of the whistleblower. Confidentiality applies to both the name of the whistleblower and other identifying information. The purpose of the provision is to make it safer for employees to report externally to public authorities.

The new rules will be gathered in a new chapter in the Working Environment Act

With the implementation of the new legislation, all the provisions regarding whistleblowing will be collected in a new chapter 2A of the Working Environment Act. By establishing a new chapter concerning whistleblowers, the provisions will become more visible and in turn easier to find.

The new statutory rules can be found here (in Norwegian).