Whistleblowing in the context of labor relations
By whistleblowing we are referring to corporate systems designed for employees—or other individuals related to the company—to report, securely and without fear of reprisal, any conduct, acts or omissions that may constitute breaches of internal rules, codes of ethics and applicable policies at the company.
This is a US concept that originally emerged as a means of preventing fraud at large multinationals and listed companies, in order to avoid any repetition of major accounting scandals. It has finally been introduced into Spain’s business community in the form of recommendations, codes of conduct and good governance codes transcending a strictly financial environment.
However, although the rationale behind whistleblowing is laudable and ambitious, the truth is that it gives rise to a host of problems in an employment law context such as in Spain. One should not lose sight of the fact that, far from defending the sound running of the company, potentially malicious whistleblowers may use the confidentiality with which their identity is treated—which in certain cases can even take the form of anonymity—in order to pursue their own personal agenda or even use whistleblowing as a tool to discredit or damage other co-workers.
It would therefore be advisable to set appropriate limits in the whistleblowing procedures themselves or even in collective bargaining, in order to prevent tools of this kind from being misused. These limits could take the form of doing away with anonymity—while still treating the whistleblower’s identity as confidential—or limiting the types of complaint that can be reported, or adequately safeguarding the rights of the whistleblower and the accused person alike.
Garrigues Employment and Labor Law Department