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Whistleblowing systems in Sweden – no prior authorisation required - International Law Office

International Law Office

Employment & Benefits - Sweden

Whistleblowing systems in Sweden – no prior authorisation required

January 18 2012

A whistleblowing system outlines the procedure for employees to raise concerns about wrongdoing or malpractice within the employer's organisation. The reporting is normally made by email or phone (ie, to a specific email address or phone number) as an alternative option to other reporting methods.

When processing the reported information, the employer must observe the rules on the protection of personal data. As a general rule, data regarding criminal offences may be processed only by authorities in Sweden. However, information related to key employees or management who are involved in serious criminal activities – such as serious improprieties concerning financial mismanagement, corruption, environmental crimes or discrimination – is excluded from this rule and may thus be processed by the employer. Further, no prior authorisation is required to process such personal data. The employer may not process information related to other employees' involvement (or suspected involvement) in such activities without authorisation from the Swedish Data Inspection Board (Datainspektionen). However, so far, no such authorisation has been given.

In some jurisdictions, a whistleblowing policy that covers all employees is required by law. The restricted scope in Sweden makes it difficult for a company group to implement a uniform global whistleblowing policy, and it may be necessary to make local adjustments for Sweden.

Even though use of the whistleblowing system is optional for employees, it is important that they understand the system and are trained to use it. Furthermore, the general rules on protection of personal data must be observed, such as those regarding:

  • information obligations towards employees;
  • restrictions related to sensitive personal data;
  • data transfer to third parties; and
  • data storage.

Non-observance of the data protection rules may lead to damages to the employee concerned and, in some severe cases, fines or imprisonment.

Lastly, the employer may be obliged to conduct consultations with trade unions under any applicable collective bargaining agreements before a decision to implement the whistleblowing system is taken.

For further information please contact Fredrika Skoog or Jennie Lööw at Hamilton by telephone (+46 8 505 501 00), fax (+46 8 505 501 01) or email (fredrika.skoog@hamilton.se or jennie.loow@hamilton.se).

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