Whistleblowing - international snapshot

A high level overview of employment protection for those who blow the whistle across a range of jurisdictions.​

Please note the European Commission has proposed a draft directive to strengthen whistleblower protection across the European Union. This remains subject to review and approval by the European Parliament and the European Council. Please see our elexica article for a high level overview.

France

Companies with 50 or more employees must introduce a whistleblowing programme for employees or agents and excludes national defence, medical and legal professional secrets. Disclosures are optional and financial incentives for these are illegal. The whistleblower is protected against retaliation or reprisals for any protected disclosures.

Further details are available here.

Germany

Whistleblowing is not very common in Germany and there is no specific legislation on the topic. Instead the general protection of employees such as the prohibition of victimisation and the rules on dismissal protection may apply. In general, where reasonable, workers first have to use internal procedures and seek internal resolution and notify the employer before making an external disclosure.

Further details are available here.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, there is no specific legislation which protects an individual who blows the whistle on his/her employer or others.

Further details are available here.

Italy

Italy recently introduced a key piece of legislation which for the first time specifically addressed the topic of whistleblowing, not only to the public sector but also to employees of the private sector. According to the new legislation, which came into force on 29 December 2017, the employer is prohibited from dismissing anyone for making a disclosure or from implementing a discriminatory or retaliatory change to their position or tasks and duties as a result of them making the protected disclosure.

Further details are available here.

Netherlands

The purpose of the “Law House for Whistleblowers” (the Whistleblowing Act) is to protect whistleblowers and contribute to combating social abuses by, amongst others, introducing a new special independent administrative body called the “House for Whistleblowers”.

The Whistleblowing Act does ensure the protection of the whistleblower, by determining that the (former) employee and (former) non-employees (eg contractors, interns, volunteers, etc), who acted properly and in good faith by reporting a misconduct, cannot be disadvantaged in their legal position.

An employee is entitled to disclose any suspicion of abuse, based on reasonable grounds, which takes place within the company or another company and impacts public interest.

Further details are available here.

PRC

Employees have a general right not to be subject to retaliation for reporting or complaining about breaches of law by their employer. However, enforcement of these protections for whistleblowers is weak, so employers often ignore them. Depending on the type of breaches of law reported, employees may receive monetary awards from government authorities, which amounts are generally within a range of amounts, or a certain percentage of imposed fines with or without a cap. Foreign invested employers are not required to have a whistleblowing policy in place.

Further details are available here.

Spain

Whistleblowing is not common but the practice of having whistleblowing procedures is starting to become more common. This is for a number or reasons including the possibility of avoiding or reducing civil and/or criminal liabilities if unlawful actions are committed or allowed by employers in their companies. There is no specific legislation and whistleblowing procedures must be implemented through a policy which will determine the scope, procedure and warranties. Legal protections for whistleblowers are mainly right to confidentiality and a right not to be subject to a detriment if the accusation is accurate or inaccurate but non intentional or harmful.

Further details are available here.

UK

Workers are protected if they disclose certain information and follow a specific procedure when disclosing that information. A worker who makes a protected disclosure must not be subject to a detriment or dismissed for having made the disclosure. No qualifying period of employment applies and compensation is unlimited.

Further details are available here.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.