“Proposta de Proteção de Denunciantes”: New Portuguese Whistleblowing Law

Portugal was the third country to transpose the EU Whistleblowing Directive into national law.
Murray Grainger

On 26 November 2021, the Portuguese parliament approved a new draft law on whistleblower protection through a majority vote. Proposta de Lei 91/XIV transposed the EU Whistleblowing Directive into national law ahead of most other EU member states who experienced a spate of delays. The “Proposta de Proteção de Denunciantes”, or “Whistleblower Protection Proposal”, came into force six months after its publication in the Official Journal.

Illustration two persons talking about a Portuguese whistleblowing law

What is the EU Whistleblowing Directive and how is Portugal affected?

Under the EU Whistleblowing Directive, all private and public sector employers with 250 employees or more were required to implement a whistleblowing system by 17 December 2021 at the latest, a deadline most member states missed. Smaller organisations with between 50 and 249 employees were given more time – until 17 December 2023. Portugal’s efforts to transpose the EU Whistleblowing Directive began on January 1, 2020 when Justice Minister Francisca Van Dunem announced that the Portuguese government intended transposing it later that year. The process took slightly longer than expected and the initial steps were taken in April 2021 when a new national anti-corruption strategy was approved by the Council of Ministers. That strategy progressed to a vote on proposals for a whistleblowing framework in June 2022 and it all culminated in the final parliamentary vote that November.

Portugal and the new whistleblowing law: the road to transposition

The situation in Portugal before the EU Whistleblowing Directive

Transparency International Portugal released a comprehensive report into whistleblowing in Portugal  in 2018 and it stated that the topic has become increasingly discussed and scrutinised by the pubic in recent years. Over the past decade, national reform programmes prioritised the fight against corruption and related crimes as themes of the modernisation of the state through the delivery of more transparent and democratic justice. Nevertheless, Portugal had no legal obligation for companies to establish a whistleblowing system before the November vote and legal protection for whistleblowers was extremely limited. That was the case for public and private sector employees alike and there was no government agency responsible for the support and protection of whistleblowers.  

Portugal’s new whistleblowing law: the specifics

The document approved by parliament states that the new law “benefits from the protection conferred by this law the whistleblower who, in good faith, and having serious grounds to believe that the information is, at the time of complaint or public disclosure, true, denounces or publicly discloses an offence under the terms established”.

The key points for companies are 

Portugal leads the way

In recent years, critics have commented on the country’s lack of whistleblower protection legislation and the late November 2022 vote represented huge progress for Portuguese businessThe transposition saw Portugal outpace most other EU member states in establishing a new whistleblowing law with Denmark and Sweden the only other countries to do so at such an early stage. 

What was particularly surprising about Portugal’s transposition process was its speed and lack of publicity. A Transparency International report looking at the early adoption of the EU Whistleblowing Directive across Europe stated that “there was limited information regarding the transposition process”, in Lisbon. Despite the lack of publicly available information, the Portuguese government took the transposition process extremely seriously behind the scenes and Portugal can proudly count itself among the first countries to have managed to implement the legislation into national law.  

You can view the final version of the Portuguese law here (in Portuguese).

Whistleblowing Laws in the European Union

A glance at the implementation of the EU Whistleblowing Directive in EU Member States

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EQS Integrity Line contact image Murray Grainger | integrityline.com
Murray Grainger
Country Manager Spain & Portugal | EQS Group
Murray Grainger is EQS Group’s Country Manager for Spain and Portugal and supports companies with their effective ethics and compliance programmes. In this role, he advises customers on best practices and processes to protect and enhance the workplace.