On July 2, 2023, the Whistleblower Protection Act (HinSchG) came into force, which serves to transpose the Whistleblower Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/1937) into German law. The law is intended to protect whistleblowers who draw attention to breaches of the law and regulations in companies and public authorities. From 17.12.2023, the obligation applies to employers with generally 50 – 249 employees.
According to this law, all companies that regularly employ at least 50 people are obliged to set up an internal reporting office. Employees can be reported to this reporting office, e.g. violations of criminal provisions, violations subject to fines, i.e. violations of generally applicable law.
At Dr. Günther Kast GmbH & Co. Technische Gewebe Spezial-Fasererzeugnisse KG, this is the centrally established internal reporting office. All Kast employees, including temporary workers, as well as external persons (e.g. suppliers, customers) can submit reports to this reporting office.
Companies must provide easily accessible reporting channels and clear and easily accessible information on the use of the internal reporting procedure.
At Kast, we implement this as follows:
The following reporting channels are available to you for submitting a report to the internal reporting office:
By e-mail to: email@example.com
By post with the note “confidential” to:
Dr. Günther Kast GmbH & Co.
Technische Gewebe Spezial-Fasererzeugnisse KG
Whistleblower Reporting Office
By telephone: +49 8321/6641-71
Mr. Häring is responsible for the reporting office. He is supported by our external lawyers from the Bavarian Textile and Clothing Industry Association (Verband der Bayrischen Textil- und Bekleidungsindustrie e.V.).
At the request of the whistleblower, the report can also be made in a meeting with an employee of the Reporting Office; the whistleblower will be given a corresponding appointment within five working days of notification of such a request. The Reporting Office confirms receipt of each report to the whistleblower within seven calendar days of receipt of the report.
Kast is legally obliged to document all incoming reports in compliance with the confidentiality requirement (Section 11 (1) HinSchG). Reports made during conversations can be documented by making an audio recording or a complete and accurate transcript, but only with the consent of the person making the report. They must be given the opportunity to check the minutes of the conversation, correct them if necessary and confirm them by signing them.
The confidentiality of the identity of the whistleblower and third parties mentioned in the report must be maintained for the reporting procedure and the follow-up measures (Section 8 HinSchG). The identity of the persons concerned must also remain protected for the duration of an investigation triggered by the report or disclosure.
The Reporting Office shall ensure that unauthorized persons, i.e. all legal and naturalpersons who are not responsible for receiving reports and taking follow-up measures and who have no legal right to information, do not have access to information on the content of the reporting procedure and the follow-up
measures. This also applies to all other information from which the identity of the reporting or affected persons can be directly or indirectly deduced.
However, there are exceptions to the confidentiality requirement in the cases of Section 9 HinSchG, according to which, among other things, the identity of a whistleblower is not protected if they intentionally or grossly negligently report incorrect information about violations.
Processing procedure for reports
The Reporting Office examines every reported matter immediately and initiates the necessary and reasonable follow-up measures. This includes checks as to whether the reported violation falls within the material scope of the Whistleblower Protection Act, measures to verify the validity of the allegations made in the report and, if necessary, action against the reported violation, including internal inquiries, investigations, criminal prosecution measures, measures to (re-)recover funds or the conclusion of the proceedings. If necessary, further information will be requested from the whistleblower.
The persons concerned will be informed of the allegations without delay and questioned about the allegation, provided that this does not significantly impair or jeopardize the clarification of the reported violation.
If a report is obviously unfounded or was obviously made solely for denunciatory motives or is a minor case, no further investigation will be initiated; only the documentation obligations apply.
For each report, the Reporting Office shall prepare a report to the management on the violation, the result of the investigation and the recommended action, including the steps required for this and the timetable in response to the result.
The whistleblower will be informed of the outcome of the investigation of the reported violation and any action taken as a result. This does not apply if and insofar as there are legal, in particular data protection, objections to the information. If the report is made anonymously, the information will be provided exclusively via the whistleblower system’s case mailbox.
Feedback must be provided to the whistleblower within three months of confirmation of receipt of the report or, if receipt has not been confirmed, no later than three months and seven days after receipt of the report (Section 17 para. 2 HinSchG). The feedback includes notification of any planned follow-up measures as well as any follow-up measures already taken and the reasons for these. The obligation to provide feedback also applies if, in the case of longer investigations, no result of the investigation is available after three months. In this case, the feedback is limited to information on the current status of the investigation.
Feedback may only be provided to the reporting person insofar as this does not affect internal inquiries or investigations and the rights of the persons who are the subject of a report or who are named in the report are not impaired.
Protection of whistleblowers
Employees who make reports in accordance with the aforementioned legal requirements must not be subject to reprisals or threats of reprisals for this reason. This applies accordingly to whistleblowing temporary workers. However, the protection of whistleblowers requires that at the time of reporting or disclosure they have sufficient reason to believe that that the information reported or disclosed is true (Section 33 (1) no. 2 HinSchG).
Employees who intentionally or through gross negligence report incorrect information about violations must expect sanctions under employment law, in particular a warning or dismissal. Before making a report, whistleblowers must take all reasonable steps to check whether there is sufficient reason to believe that the information on which the report is based is true. If this is the case, all employees are called upon to report violations of the law as well as violations of the employer’s policies and procedures.