Whistleblowing Legal Framework in Portugal – Update

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Directive (EU) 2019/1937 of the European Parliament and of the Council of October 23, 2019, on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law (the “Directive”) was published on November 26, 2019 and was transposed into Portuguese law by Law no. 92/2021 of December 20, which entered into force on June 18, 2022.

A new set of obligations applies for companies and other public entities regarding the protection of whistleblowers and the implementation of internal reporting channels and procedures.

Companies must implement whistleblowing channels if they have between 50 and 249 workers. And regardless of the number of employees, obligations apply to companies that may engage in acts that may lead to crimes or misdemeanors, in the following areas:

  • Public procurement;
  • Financial services, products, and markets, and prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing;
  • Product safety and compliance;
  • Transport safety;
  • Environmental protection;
  • Radiation protection and nuclear safety;
  • Food and feed safety, animal health, and animal welfare;
  • Public health;
  • Consumer protection;
  • Protection of privacy and personal data and network and information systems security;

Whistleblowers are individuals who become aware of legal breaches or other situations threatening or harmful to the public interest in a professional setting (public or private sector).

Complaints can be filed not only by employees but also by service providers, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and any persons acting under their supervision and direction, holders of shareholdings, persons belonging to administrative or management bodies or fiscal or supervisory bodies of legal entities, including non-executive members and, finally, volunteers and interns.

Creating an internal whistleblowing channel is mandatory to enable complaints to be lodged and followed up securely to guarantee independence, confidentiality, data protection, and prohibition of acts of retaliation.

The beneficiaries of the protection include identified whistleblowers, individuals assisting in the complainant/whistleblowing procedure, any third parties connected to the complainant, namely work colleagues or family members, and corporations or entities owned or controlled by the whistleblower.

Whistleblowers may file complaints in writing or verbally, anonymously, or with the identification of the whistleblower.

There are benefits inherent to the creation of an internal reporting channel, namely:

  • Allows greater control of the situation in case of whistleblowing in the company
  • Possibility of minimizing the damage done without any loss of reputation and credibility of the company
  • Avoid fines for accidental neglect of responsibilities and avoid court-related costs
  • Save on expensive internal audits

The processing of personal data, including the exchange or transmission of personal data, complaint confidentiality, and the protection of the identity and the accused must comply with the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation.

Fines for failure to implement a whistleblowing system and for non-compliance with the rules imposed by the applicable legislation constitute severe and very serious administrative offenses, which may reach up to € 250,000.00 for legal entities.

Our Labor & Employment and Corporate Law teams are available to assist. For more information, please contact us.


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