A recent change to Norwegian legislation has extended whistleblowing protection to employees of small businesses and hired personnel.
On 1 July 2017, Chapter 2A was added to the Norwegian Working Environment Act (the ‘WEA’), providing a new set of statutory rules regarding whistleblowing for employees. The new rules are considered to have strengthened the protection of whistleblowers and will affect most companies in Norway.
According to the WEA, whistleblowing is when an employee reports blameworthy conditions within a company. The WEA already ensures an employee’s right to report blameworthy conditions, to prevent the whistleblower being treated unfairly due to such a notification and to protect the whistleblower from any retaliation. However, chapter 2A clarifies the rights of whistleblowers and places new responsibilities on businesses.
The most important change in the regulation is the requirement for all companies with five or more employees to have an internal policy for whistleblowing. The policy must be produced in collaboration with the employees and their representatives. Furthermore, it must be in writing, easily accessible for all employees and, as a minimum, must contain:
- A call for notification when an employee discover blameworthy conditions in the undertaking
- A description of the procedure for such a notification
- A description of how the notification is received by the company along with next steps, after the receipt of a notification from an employee
Hired personnel are also covered by the new regulation and are now protected from retaliation from both the employer and the company that has hired them.
As the regulation is already in force, all companies should review their policies for whistleblowing to ensure compliance with the new legal requirements. Companies with at least five employees that have no policy are required to prepare one as soon as possible.
Comments on the gig economy
From an international point of view, Norway has a modest amount of its workforce in temporary employment – about 8%. When temporary employment is used, it is mainly as a temporary replacement for another permanent employee.
The Norwegian government is concerned about the development of the gig economy in certain business sectors. This mainly applies to agency workers and those in the construction industry, but it is also spreading to other industries. Most agency workers have a permanent employment contract. The concern for this group is that most of them are only entitled to payment when they are on commission, which provides no certainty for stable income. In particular, the construction industry has seen a rapid increase in the use of temporary employment and hired personnel over recent years, especially in the Oslo area. Most hired employees are agency workers.
Due to the increased use of employment contracts without adequate certainty for employees, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has recently suggested certain changes to the WEA. One of the suggestions is to define “permanent employment”, as being where a demand for permanent employment provides the employee the necessary predictability for work and income.
Further, the Ministry is consulting on limiting the use of hired personnel by introducing a quantitative restriction. Consultative bodies have been asked to comment on setting a limit for hired personnel in an undertaking to 10 or 15% of the workforce. The closing date for comments is 29 September 2017, so it still seems uncertain what changes are ahead.
© 2017 KLUGE ADVOKATFIRMA AS
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