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France: Senate adopts whistleblowing bill in its first reading

The Senate adopted, on 20 January 2022, amendments to Bill No. 4398 to Improve the Protection of Whistleblowers, aiming to transpose the Directive on the Protection of Persons who Report Breaches of Union Law (Directive (EU) 2019/1937) ('the Whistleblowing Directive') into French law, within its first reading within the Senate. In particular, the Senate examined, on the same date, the Bill, as well as the Draft Organic Law to Reinforce the Role of the Defender of Rights in the context of Whistleblowing. More specifically, the Defender of Rights constitutes a body entrusted with the role of helping to guide all whistleblowers at all stages of their proceedings and to ensure their rights and freedoms, according to Organic Law No. 2016-1690 of 9 December 2016 Bearing on the Competence of the Defender of Rights for the Orientation and Protection of Whistleblowers.

Notably, the Senate adopted amendments which pertain to, among other things:

  • re-establishing the definition of 'whistleblower' as adopted by the National Assembly in its first reading, which involves removing any distinction made between information relevant to the scope of application of the Whistleblowing Directive, among other things;
  • protecting anonymous whistleblowers;
  • maintaining criteria for evaluating the level of danger related to public disclosure of information without prior notification; 
  • ensuring the prioritisation of notifications regarding non-classified information, but which relates to matters of national security and defence; and
  • specifying the scope of protection of whistleblowers against legal liability, limited to where such whistleblowers gained lawful access to relevant information.

In addition, the Senate did not adopt any amendments to the draft organic law.

Consequently, the bill and the draft organic law were transferred, on 21 January 2021, to the Joint Committee according to the accelerated procedure.

You can read the Senate's press release here, and access the portal for the bill here and for the draft organic law here, all only available in French.