Employee's personal data
Q: A colleague recently raised concerns about the personal data that our employer holds about her, but I'm not aware what kind of data that is. What are employers' duties towards their staff when it comes to holding personal data on file and do I need to give express permission for my employer to keep these records?
Your colleague is not alone in raising concerns about the use of personal data which is, broadly speaking, information that can be used to identify a specific individual. Importantly, there are strict guidelines in place for what employers can and can’t do with such information. This includes making sure that any personal data kept is accurate, up to date, secure, that it is not held for any longer than is necessary or used for anything other than what you provided it for.
Employers most commonly gather, store and sometimes share details of your current salary, your address and contact details of family members or next of kin. They may also hold some sensitive personal data such as details of a medical condition, information about your trade union membership or information that you might have provided on an equal opportunities monitoring form.
Employers do not always have to ask the permission of staff before using their personal data. However, they do have to ask before sharing sensitive personal information such as medical records, with others. When this is the case, your employer has to explicitly seek your permission: making it clear exactly what type of information they wish to use, why and for how long.
Although you might need to pay a small fee, you can always submit a request to your employer and ask to know exactly what information they currently hold about you.
If you are unsure about how, when and for what purpose information about you is being gathered, used, stored and shared at work, ask for a copy of the organisation’s data protection policy. If they haven’t got one in place or if you want to know more, you can find out by visiting the Information Commissioner’s Office website: www.ico.gov.uk
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