No designated law for whistle-blowers. Generally, whistle-blowers are people who disclose malpractice or illegal or unethical operations. The concept of a whistle-blower is not very well-known in Finland, and it has not been discussed widely in public or the media.
Whistle-blowers are not defined by law in Finland, nor does the country have a designated law to protect whistle-blowers. As a result, there are no official channels for whistle-blowers to disclose wrongdoings. The process for whistle- blowers is mostly nonregulated, even though there are some scattered provisions in different laws. Thus, the practice of whistle-blowing in Finland is partly supported by a range of different laws and company practices.
Enabling disclosures and protecting whistle-blowers have been developed through several regulations, including the following:
- The Constitution of Finland secures everyone a freedom of speech. The Constitution also states that everyone has a right to work, and no one should be dismissed from employment without a legal reason.
- Employment laws support equal treatment of employees and an employee’s right to report issues, such as those related to health or safety at work.
- The Credit Institution Law and the Finnish Trade Secrets Act enact specific procedures for reporting malpractice and wrongdoings.
According to the Credit Institution Law, credit institutions are obligated to have procedures for employees to report a suspected breach of financial market regulations within the credit institution. The Finnish Trade Secrets Act allows some freedom from violating protected trade secrets when revealing illegal or wrongful activities.
There is no separate agency for anti- corruption in Finland. Depending on the case, one can file a report of malpractice to authorities such as the police, a Parliamentary ombudsman, an industrial safety authority or a state auditor’s office.
Practices within organizations
Even though the laws do not regulate a specific way for whistle-blowers to report malpractice, some organizations have their own procedures for doing this (e.g., an ethics hotline or similar).
According to research from 2011, half of the biggest companies in Finland enabled internal reporting of malpractice. Often the recipient of the report is the immediate superior of the whistle-blower or of the internal audit unit. In many cases the report can be filed electronically. Half of the companies included in the research also allowed reporting the malpractice anonymously. Notification channels differ significantly from company to company.
In April 2018, the European Commission has proposed a directive on the protection of persons reporting breaches of European Union law. The Finnish Council of State sees the objectives of the proposal positively, and Finland has commenced preparations for a more detailed evaluation of the directive’s impact on local legislation.
Also, a new website to identify and prevent corruption is being planned in Finland and will launch in December 2018. The site will provide information about corruption, though the website itself will not serve as a place to report corruptive operations.
Based on other laws and related activities in progress, it is likely that Finland will develop a whistle-blowing framework in the near future.
Country-by-country and EU whistle-blowing rules need to be taken into account in setting the best practices and policies in this growing area of risk, including what an employer must do when faced with a whistle-blower claim, such as whether an investigation is required, protections of the employee who complained of company practices and litigation issues.
Best practice requires companies to take action in advance by creating a hotline and training its employees in ethical behavior.