Whistleblower protection to be extended in Sweden
The right to anonymity will be extended to individuals who work within publicly financed but privately run companies within healthcare, education and welfare, according to a government proposal to be presented today, Thursday.
The proposal is part of an agreement between the Social Democrat-Green Party government and the Left Party, Swedish Radio reports. It means that a staff member at a free school, for instance, can speak to journalists about potential mismanagement at their work place without their employer having the right to find out their identity – a right which is currently afforded to state employees.
“This means a lot to our party,” said Left Party leader Jonas Sjöstedt. “It’s part of the agreement to remove profit-making within the welfare sector that we are now seeing through step by step.”
Sjöstedt said he has met several people working at privately-run elderly homes who have been too afraid to speak to journalists about poor conditions at their work places for fear of reprisals from employers.
“Now, we are giving them the same opportunity that state employees have to speak up when something is wrong and must be put right,” said Sjöstedt.
While the new regulation extends anonymity protection of whistleblowers to non-state employees, it does not give the privately employed the right to leak confidential documents. The anonymity protection is also limited by existing confidentiality rules within the healthcare, education and welfare sectors.
The issue of whistleblower protection was also discussed by the previous, centre-right coalition government but no proposal for change was put forward, something that was criticised by Sweden’s constitutional committee.
According to Minister for Justice Morgan Johansson, the previous government delayed the matter and there were also protests from actors like the Association of Private Care Providers and Almega – the Employers’ Organisation for the Swedish Service Sector.
“They’ve been against it since they believe industrial secrets may be leaked,” said Johansson, “but our government is convinced that we must do this. Now there is a deal and it is also anchored within the centre-right political bloc and so there won’t be any problems getting this through parliament,” Johansson insisted.
Håkan Tenelius, industrial policy chief at the Association of Private Care Providers, told news agency TT that he welcomes the extended anonymity protection and that all serious private actors are anyway careful to ensure that all wrong-doings at their companies are brought to light.
However, Tenelius did also point out that there is a risk that industrial secrets may be leaked. Companies also fear that may mean sensitive information reaches their competitors.
Unless the law is clearly formulated, said Tenelius, there is a chance it may be used against companies.
However, speaking to Swedish Radio, Minister for Justice Morgan Johansson insisted that the new law will be good for competition between state-run and privately-run operations since it levels the playing field, giving the same protection to all employees.