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Global employment briefing: Italy, January 2018

  • Italy
  • Employment law


Whistleblowing protection extended to employees in the private sector

New legislation (“Law no. 179/2017”) which came into force on 29 December 2017, has introduced “whistleblowing” protection for employees in the private sector.

The main aim of the new provisions is to protect reports of wrongdoing in the workplace by ensuring such disclosures are treated confidentially and anonymously and that the discloser is protected from discrimination or retaliation at work. To receive protection, disclosures must be relevant, specific and based on fact.

The new legislation extends the protections already in existence in the public sector to private sector employees by requiring that their organisational models provide:

  1. a) clear channels through which employees can report workplace misconduct and must do so in a way which protects the identity of the whistleblower and preserves confidentiality over the way in which disclosures are handled;
  2. b) specific sanctions against individuals who do not comply with the required protection measures, as well as against whistleblowers who are guilty of wilful or grossly-negligent false reporting.

Actions by private sector employers which will be deemed retaliatory or discriminatory against whistleblowers –and accordingly in contravention of these provisions –will be those which are directly or indirectly connected to the disclosure of misconduct. Any such detrimental actions, whether in the form of dismissal of the whistleblower, demotion or otherwise, will be void. The employee should report such discriminatory conduct to the Territorial Labour Inspectorate, either directly or through the Trade Unions.

Furthermore, the onus is upon the employer to rebut allegations of detrimental treatment of a whistleblower. As a result, any employer who pursues disciplinary action against a potential whistleblower must be able to demonstrate that such action is based upon legitimate reasons other than the fact the individual has raised allegations of misconduct.