To remain compliant with the fast-moving regulatory landscape, it is important for businesses to keep up with the latest developments in whistleblower protection laws.
So, what exactly is SAPIN II, and why is it so important to whistleblowing?
What is SAPIN II?
SAPIN II is the French law on the protection of whistleblowers. It was passed in December 2016 and came into effect on January 1, 2018. The original SAPIN law was passed in 2003 and focused on protecting whistleblowers in the public sector. SAPIN II expands on this to cover the private sector as well. The legislation mandates that all companies with over 50 employees, and a turnover of more than €10 million, establish a whistleblowing process to enable their employees to report any suspected wrongdoing.
What is a whistleblower?
SAPIN II provides a clear definition of what constitutes whistleblowing. According to the law, a whistleblower is someone who reports or reveals, in a selfless manner and in good faith, a crime or an offense, a serious and obvious breach of a legal or regulatory obligation, or a serious threat or harm to the public interest.
Key Points to Consider
Scope: SAPIN II applies to all companies and public sector organizations with at least 50 employees. It covers a wide range of areas including corruption, tax evasion, and environmental violations.
Reporting Channels: The law requires companies to put in place a reporting channel for whistleblowers to report suspected wrongdoing. This can be done through an internal or external reporting channel.
Legal protection for whistleblowers: SAPIN II provides legal protections for whistleblowers who report wrongdoing. These protections include protection against retaliation, including dismissal or other disciplinary action, and immunity from legal action or other sanctions.
Confidentiality and anonymity: SAPIN II also provides provisions for confidentiality and anonymity for whistleblowers. The law requires that whistleblowers’ identities be protected when making a disclosure.
Sanctions: Companies that fail to comply with the law can face significant fines of up to €10,000,000. In addition, any employee who retaliates against a whistleblower can face criminal charges.
Importance of SAPIN II to Whistleblowing:
SAPIN II is an important law for whistleblowing because it provides much-needed protection for whistleblowers. Whistleblowers often face risks when they report wrongdoing. They may fear losing their jobs or being ostracized by their colleagues. SAPIN II ensures that whistleblowers can report wrongdoing without fear of retaliation, and that their identity is protected.
Complying with SAPIN II has numerous benefits for companies operating in France. Firstly, the legislation fosters a culture of transparency and accountability, which is essential for ethical business practices. It also enables companies to detect and address potential risks and compliance issues before they escalate into more significant problems.
Secondly, SAPIN II encourages employees to report misconduct with confidence. The legislation provides significant protection for whistleblowers by prohibiting any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. This protection extends not only to employees but also to contractors, suppliers, and partners who may have information regarding any wrongdoing in the company.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
Non-compliance withthe legislation can result in severe consequences for companies. The French Anti-Corruption Agency (AFA) is responsible for enforcing SAPIN II, and it has the power to investigate and sanction non-compliant companies. The penalties for non-compliance can be significant and include:
- A fine of up to €10 million or 5% of the company’s average annual turnover
- A court order to implement a whistleblowing mechanism
- Reputation damage due to negative publicity
- Legal action from whistleblowers who have suffered retaliation.
The Relevance of SAPIN II to UK Businesses
Although SAPIN II is specific to French legislation, UK businesses operating in France or with French subsidiaries need to be aware of their obligations under the legislation. UK businesses that meet the criteria for SAPIN II must establish a whistleblowing system and process in line with the legislation’s requirements. Failure to comply with SAPIN II could result in the same penalties as non-compliant French companies.
Furthermore, with the increase in global anti-corruption enforcement and the growing focus on ethical business practices, complying with SAPIN II is an excellent way for UK to remain competitive in the global market. By ensuring their operations are compliant with all relevant legislation (thus demonstrating a commitment to ethical business practices) UK businesses can attract the most impressive personnel.
Implement an independent whistleblowing hotline
Protecting whistleblowers begins at the point of making a report. Safecall, as an independent whistleblowing service providers, ensures employees have a secure avenue to report wrongdoing.
Effective and Impartial Report Assessment
The best way to ensure your process for assessing concerns is effective and impartial is by using an external case management and investigations provider.
If investigations are to be handled internally, training for managers is essential. Whistleblowing is a unique situation. Whistleblowing reporting managers who have not received training can feel overwhelmed or out of their depth when a whistleblowing case arises. Arranging training sessions for your workers, created bespoke for your business, can help avoid the risk of non-compliance.
Train employees; raise awareness
Educating your workers on your whistleblowing policy and their rights in making a disclosure helps to develop a culture of openness, transparency, and integrity.
Whistleblowing training for employees is necessary to prevent and mitigate wrongdoing in the workplace, and for regulatory compliance.
Need to Talk to a Whistleblowing System Expert?
Call us on +44 (0) 191516 7720
If you need to give us more detailed information about your business, get in touch with us via a contact form