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Our Future of Work Report indicates that while economic headwinds have reduced the prospects of activism over the last 18 months, employers expect a resurgence of activism in the future. It is important for employers to be aware of the legal protections in place for employees who choose to blow the whistle against their employer or fellow employees. This article provides a comparative analysis across the region.

Questions Is there specific legislation that provides protection to employee whistle-blowers? What, if any, protections are afforded to employee whistle-blowers?
Hong Kong There is no specific legislation that provides general protection to employee whistle-blowers. Employers are however prohibited against terminating the employment of an employee by reason of the employee giving evidence or information in any proceedings or inquiry in connection with a workplace accident or with the enforcement of labour legislation, industrial accidents or breach of work safety regulations.

Hong Kong's anti-discrimination ordinances also prohibit victimisation (ie less favourable treatment of an employee who has made allegations of unlawful discrimination or harassment under such ordinances).

Malaysia Yes, the Whistleblowing Protection Act 2010 provides some protection against termination, demotion, suspension harassment or discrimination to employees who make a disclosure to a government agency relating to improper conduct in the workplace.

 

Broadly, the Whistleblowing Protection Act 2010 provides for three key protections:

  1. protection of confidential information provided by the whistle-blower;
  2. immunity from civil and criminal actions as a result of disclosure; and
  3. protection from detrimental actions – a person is deemed to take detrimental action against a whistle-blower or any person related to the whistle-blower if:
    • the person takes or threatens to take the detrimental action because a whistle-blower has made a disclosure of improper conduct, or the person believes that a whistle-blower has made or intends to make a disclosure of improper conduct; or
    • the person incites or permits another person to take or threaten to take the detrimental action for any such reason.

Additionally, a party to a contract must not (i) terminate the contract, (ii) withhold payment that is due and payable under the contract, (iii) or refuse to enter into a subsequent contract, solely for the reason that any party to the contract, or an employee or employer of any party to the contract, has made a disclosure of improper conduct to any enforcement agency.

Japan Yes, the Whistleblower Protection Act provides some protection to employee whistle-blowers by invalidating dismissals, cancellations of worker dispatch contracts, disadvantageous treatments (eg demotion, salary reduction) on the grounds of having made a disclosure. Under the Whistleblower Protection Act, protection is limited to current or former "employees" (as defined in Article 9 of the Labour Standards Act) and covers both private and public sectors.

Employee whistle-blowers may (provided they have no unlawful purpose) report illegal acts that violate the laws concerning the protection of an individual's life, health, property and other interests. The disclosure may be made primarily within the organisation. External disclosure to government agencies and mass media is protected under certain conditions.

PRC There is no specific legislation that provides general protection to employee whistle-blowers.

However, some disclosures are protected by various PRC laws and regulations. These laws are mainly aimed at protecting the "legitimate rights and interests" of individuals who blow the whistle by requiring that prosecutorial authorities maintain the confidentiality of whistle-blower information (including the identity of a whistle-blower).

Officials of state bodies are explicitly prohibited from retaliating against whistle-blowers. Labour administration authorities have the power to impose fines on employers who retaliate against individuals who blow the whistle.

 

Thailand There is no specific legislation that provides general protection to employee whistle-blowers.

However, some disclosures are afforded protection under the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and the Securities and Exchange Act (SECA).

Under the LRA, an employer must not dismiss an employee or treat an employee in an unfair manner or in such a manner that encourages an employee to resign if the employee or the labour union that the employee belongs to engaged in the following conduct:

  • called for a rally against the employer;
  • filed a complaint against the employer;
  • submitted a demand to the employer;
  • participated in a negotiation with the employer;
  • prepared or instituted a lawsuit against the employer; or
  • served as a witness or submitted evidence to competent officials, the Registrar, a conciliation officer, a labour dispute arbitrator or the Labour Relations Committee under the LRA or to the Labour Court.

Under the SECA, an employer who is a locally listed company or a securities company is prohibited from imposing unfair treatment on an employee such as by changing their position, job description or workplace, suspending, threatening, harassing or laying-off off such employee on any of the following grounds

  • by reason of the employee giving information, cooperating or giving assistance to the Securities and Exchange Commission of Thailand (SEC), the Capital Market Supervisory Board or the SEC office if the employee believes or has reasonable grounds to believe in good faith that there has been a breach of the SECA; or
  • by reason of the employee giving a statement, filing documents or giving evidence or assistance to the SEC, the Capital Market Supervisory Board or the SEC Office for the purpose of an investigation into a potential breach of the SECA, regardless of whether the employee has done so in accordance with an order of the SEC, the Capital Market Supervisory Board or the SEC Office.
Vietnam There is no specific legislation that provides general protection to employee whistle-blowers. Some disclosures are protected by Decree No 24/2018/ND-CP issued by the Government dated 27 February 2018 which seeks to enhance measures to protect "whistle-blowers" and their relatives.

The Law on Denunciations also contains various protections for individuals who report on the illegal activities of organisations or individuals in both the public and private sectors.

 

Fatim Jumabhoy photo

Fatim Jumabhoy

Managing Partner, Singapore, Singapore

Fatim Jumabhoy
Prawidha Murti photo

Prawidha Murti

Partner (Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung), Jakarta

Prawidha Murti
Nonnabhat (Niab) Paiboon photo

Nonnabhat (Niab) Paiboon

Partner, Bangkok

Nonnabhat (Niab) Paiboon
Gillian Miao photo

Gillian Miao

Counsel, Kewei, Mainland China

Gillian Miao
Veronica So photo

Veronica So

Senior Associate, Hong Kong

Veronica So
Nurul Ayu Fajarani photo

Nurul Ayu Fajarani

Associate, Singapore

Nurul Ayu Fajarani

Related categories

Key contacts

Fatim Jumabhoy photo

Fatim Jumabhoy

Managing Partner, Singapore, Singapore

Fatim Jumabhoy
Prawidha Murti photo

Prawidha Murti

Partner (Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung), Jakarta

Prawidha Murti
Nonnabhat (Niab) Paiboon photo

Nonnabhat (Niab) Paiboon

Partner, Bangkok

Nonnabhat (Niab) Paiboon
Gillian Miao photo

Gillian Miao

Counsel, Kewei, Mainland China

Gillian Miao
Veronica So photo

Veronica So

Senior Associate, Hong Kong

Veronica So
Nurul Ayu Fajarani photo

Nurul Ayu Fajarani

Associate, Singapore

Nurul Ayu Fajarani
Fatim Jumabhoy Prawidha Murti Nonnabhat (Niab) Paiboon Gillian Miao Veronica So Nurul Ayu Fajarani