Austrian Parliament Implements EU Directive for Better Protection of Whistleblowers

PeopleOther ♦ Published: February 1, 2023; 23:49 ♦ (Vindobona)

Whistleblowers are to be better protected in Austria in the future. After a delay of more than a year, the Austrian Parliament today passed a new Whistleblower Protection Act and accompanying amendments to the law, thus implementing a corresponding EU directive.

An ÖVP-Green majority voted in favor of a new whistleblower protection law in the National Council of the Austrian Parliament. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Gryffindor, CC BY-SA 3.0 (

The legislative package aims to protect people who pass on information about legally questionable practices in their professional environment, such as fraud, corruption, health hazards or environmental hazards, from reprisals in the workplace and other negative consequences such as legal proceedings that threaten their existence. For example, terminations, suspensions, salary cuts and disciplinary measures are explicitly prohibited. The premature termination of business contracts or other agreements with business partners, such as the withdrawal of permits, is also prohibited.

Anyone who violates these provisions or attempts to intimidate employees or business partners may be sued for damages. In addition, administrative fines of up to €20,000 will be imposed.

The latter also applies to violations of confidentiality provisions or to knowingly false information provided by whistleblowers. Companies, federal agencies, non-profit organizations and associations are also required to set up an internal reporting office if they employ more than 50 people. The Federal Office for the Prevention of and Fight against Corruption (BAK) will act as an external reporting office.

Discussion of the legislative package in parliament

The coalition parties emphasized that the issue had been dealt with intensively and that a "practicable, good solution" had ultimately been found that both protects whistleblowers and does not overburden companies bureaucratically.

The opposition, however, considers the provisions to be illegible and inadequate in some respects and voted unanimously against the package. The majority of the regulations are to come into force immediately after the law is promulgated, but affected companies and the public sector will have several months to set up reporting offices.

The opposition parties have identified several shortcomings in the legislative package. Verena Nussbaum, a member of the Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), showed little understanding of the fact that only certain areas such as public procurement, financial services, environmental protection, traffic safety, food and product safety, public health, data protection, corruption or the misuse of EU funds fall within the scope of the law. On the other hand, those who report other violations of the law, such as systematic violations of working hours, wage dumping, dangerous working conditions, embezzlement or sexual harassment, are not covered by the protection, she said. In their view, this contradicts the principle of equality in the federal constitution.

Criticism also came from the NEOS. Despite the delay, the result was not good, said Johannes Margreiter. They had only done what was necessary to implement the EU directive but had not understood the core issue behind it. In his opinion, given Austria's further slide down the corruption rankings, it would be all the more important to introduce functioning and efficient instruments to prevent corruption in the private sector as well.

The governing parties defended the law, which they saw as a major challenge that it also went beyond the EU directive. The fact that the law has "a certain complexity" is due to the EU directive, according to the government. However, both the ÖVP and the Greens pointed to the planned evaluation in three years.

Austrian Parliament