New whistleblowing regime for UAE now in force

Out-Law News | 24 May 2022 | 9:51 am |

Ruth Stephen tells HRNews about the whistleblowing regime introduced by the Dubai Financial Services Authority

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  • Transcript

    A new whistleblowing regime has been launched in the UAE aimed at increasing transparency around how regulatory concerns are handled. The new regulations have been launched by the DFSA, the financial regulator in the Dubai International Financial Centre. They will bolster protections for employees operating within the DIFC, the leading financial hub in the region, and encourage an environment of transparency and accountability. This is a significant development and takes the DIFC and the UAE further in the journey to create an environment of transparency and accountability.

    Gulf Business reports on this and its relevance to HR professionals. According to DFSA, the policies and procedures put in place by regulated firms should be appropriate to the nature, scale and complexity of that entity’s business and must be reviewed periodically to ensure they are adequate, effective, and up to date. The firm should also, as part of implementing these new requirements, inform all its officers and employees of the protections available to them.

    Ruth Stephen writes about this for Outlaw. In ‘UAE’s new whistleblowing regime ‘significant and positive’ step for employees’ she explains how employees can now hide their identities when reporting suspected misconduct either internally or externally provided certain conditions are met. So, they must have a “reasonable suspicion” that the legislation has been breached and the disclosure must be made in “good faith” – so very similar to the whistleblowing framework here in the UK. 

    This is a new regime for the region, building on the old one. It begs the obvious question - what’s the difference between the two? Earlier Ruth joined me by video-link from Dubai to discuss her article and I put that question to her: 

    Ruth Stephen: “So for DFSA regulated entities this adds an additional layer of obligation. So we already have the operating la, which applies in the DIFC, and there are whistleblowing protections and provisions there for employees, but what this law does is it requires employers to put in place specific policies to provide the platform for employees to blow the whistle, and also for processes, internal processes, for the employer to investigate the complaint that the employee has filed and raised.”

    Joe Glavina: “So what’s the driver behind the change, Ruth?” 

    Ruth Stephen: “I think we can comfortably say that this introduction under the regulating law is another example of the DIFC bolstering its international presence and to welcome and foster international businesses into the jurisdiction. Therefore it is more aligned with other whistleblowing regimes internationally.”

    Joe Glavina: “Final question, Ruth. What’s your advice to HR professionals who are watching this?” 

    Ruth Stephen: “Depending on what type of company you are, particularly multinational companies, it's likely that different whistleblowing regimes will apply to you. For example, we've already spoken about the operating law, and the DIFC and this law under the regulated law applies in parallel. So what HR professionals and in-house counsel need to be doing is updating their policies or, indeed, creating new policies as this regulatory law requires, if they're not already in place. So definitely making sure that the platform is there for employees to effectively, and with confidence, blow the whistle and also to ensure that employers cover themselves from the internal investigatory side and also maintain the record of that investigation in the event that the DFSA wants to then audit that down the line.”

    Ruth’s article on this is called ‘UAE’s new whistleblowing regime ‘significant and positive’ step for employees’ and it’s available from the Outlaw website.