Employers are required to implement an internal Whistleblower Protection System by 17 December 2023.
The Bulgarian law on Protection of Whistleblowers adopted in February 2023 and last amended on 6 October 2023 requires that the majority of employers facilitate whistle-blowing by introducing specific internal procedures and rules. While the obligation is effective as of 4 May 2023, the law grants a grace period until 17 December 2023 to certain employers – those in the public sector, private employers with more than 250 employees and companies with specific business (e.g. financial services or products, transport safety and preventing money laundering).
Employers are required to facilitate reporting of violations of Bulgarian or European law by their employees by introducing specific procedures and internal rules:
Protected Areas: the law enlists the businesses, products and services that are to be specifically covered by the system – e.g., public procurement, financial services, products and markets and prevention of money laundering, product safety and compliance, transport safety, environmental protection, data privacy, etc.
Protected Persons: The protection should provide comprehensive coverage within the team – employees, interim workers, contractors, volunteers, interns, managers, job applicants, former employees, as well as any person who reports misconduct discovered within the working relationship.
Protected Reports: Reports are to be protected as long as they meet certain requirements. A proof is not a prerequisite, a justified assumption will suffice. However, when a report is anonymous it will be protected only if it aims to protect a public interest not only a personal interest or when it refers to a recent incident.
The specific requirements applicable to the implementation of the system and ensuring the compliance are set out in the law and the instructions of the regulatory authority in charge – the Commission for Personal Data Protection. In particular, employers are to designate a person within the team who is authorized to receive, register and examine alerts pursuant to the relevant internal procedure and the applicable legal requirements. The whistle-blowing terms and conditions should be publicly available – published on the employer website, if any, and displayed at the workplace. Failure to comply might result in a penalty ranging from 2,500 EUR to 10,000 EUR or up to 15,000 EUR in the event of repeated offense.
* Employers with up to 50 employees are exempted from the obligations under the law, unless they carry out an activity that falls within the scope of Art. 12 (3) of the law.