What is the Whistleblower protection in schools?

6.7.2022 20:27
Whistleblower Protection Directive and schools

With the appearance of Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council, all persons who have reported potential or actual violations are legally protected against any retaliation. This directive also applies to educational establishments, including schools and kindergartens, which must implement the necessary procedures. When do principals have to do this? When Whistleblower can make a complaint?

Why do schools need to implement Whistleblower protection laws?

Schools are educational establishments that are covered by the Whistleblower Protection Directive, as they meet the requirements to take measures to protect Whistleblowers. First of all, they belong to public institutions, which employ a total of over 700,000 teachers and several thousand employees related to, for example, administration. Moreover, schools have a huge impact on the public health of children, parents, and school employees. The tasks of representatives of educational institutions include the protection of privacy and personal data of employees and ensuring the security of networks and IT systems in use. Reporting violations in schools is particularly important as it helps to protect both students and staff, and parents from violating the law.

Therefore, directors of both public and private institutions, employing a minimum of 50 employees, are required to implement and ensure the possibility of reporting irregularities through a safe and personal data protection channel. Indeed, schools that do not meet the minimum requirement for the number of employees do not have to implement a special, internal channel for managing reports, however, reporting violations is still recommended to ensure the common good of the workplace.

At the moment, the Polish draft law is still under review, but it does not change the fact that the obligation to comply with the new regulations entered into force on December 17, 2021. Directors are therefore required to implement an internal reporting channel, which may take the form of a ticketing management system.

When can one make a complaint?

Reporting irregularities is an activity for the general good, improving the quality of work and combating illegal behavior. Please note that you must be an employee, former employee or intern to receive protection. Complaints may only be submitted in cases where they are considered to be information about violations and when they relate to:

- Crimes that bear the hallmarks of, for example, corruption, mobbing or bribery.

- Damage to the environment, both to the potential that may occur and to the actual one.

- Threats to the health, life or safety of an individual.

- Breaking the law, including health and safety or fire regulations.

- An unfair judgment.

If the employee is not sure whether a given report is only a complaint, or whether it can be considered as reporting irregularities, he should refer to the regulations on reporting irregularities. According to the directive, every employer covered by the Whistleblower Directive, including the school head, is obliged to create and make such a document available to all his employees.

What are the reporting requirements for schools?

In order to avoid penalties, both public and private schools should have procedures for informing, reporting and handling irregularities already in place. Although the legislative process of the Polish draft act has not been completed yet, schools should adopt and comply with the provisions of the European Union directive, which entered into force on December 17, 2021. Under them, directors are required to implement a breach reporting system. Moreover, a person responsible for receiving and handling tickets and keeping a register of reported irregularities should be designated.

These provisions make it possible to detect irregularities efficiently and effectively at an early stage and then apply corrective actions. The Whistleblower system helps to protect the confidentiality of the identity of employees who report violations.