Employment Contracts

by Kate Russell

Personal data

Personal data is now governed by The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The regulation contains six principles.

  • Personal data should be processed fairly, lawfully and in a transparent manner.
  • Data should be obtained for specified and lawful purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes.
  • The data should be adequate, relevant and not excessive.
  • The data should be accurate and where necessary kept up to date.
  • Data should not be kept for longer than necessary.
  • Data should be kept secure.

All staff have a responsibility to ensure that their activities comply with the data protection principles. Line managers have responsibility for the type of personal data they collect and how they use it. Staff should not disclose personal data outside the organisation's procedures, or use personal data held on others for their own purposes.

Who is protected by the GDPR?

The GDPR applies to any organisation that handles personal data.

An individual who holds data about another individual on a personal level, for example a family members telephone number stored in a phone, will not need to consider GDPR for that particular data.

What is personal data?

Personal data is data that relates to an identified or identifiable individual and is:

  • processed electronically
  • kept in a filing system
  • part of an accessible record, for example an education record
  • held by a public authority.

This includes data that does not name an individual but could potentially identify them. For example a payroll or staff number. Employers should ensure staff are aware that any personal data they have in their possession will also be subject to the regulation. For example, if a manager has a written copy of contact details for their team or an employee keeps customer names and numbers on post it notes on their desk.

An organisation must have a lawful basis for handling any personal data.

Monitoring employees

If employers are monitoring their staff, for example to detect crime, they are required to make their workers aware of the nature and reason for the monitoring. This is applicable whether the monitoring is taking place using CCTV, accessing a worker's email or telephone calls or in any other way.

How long can information be kept?

Information must not be kept for longer than is necessary.

While there is no set period of time set out within the GDPR, some records must be kept for a certain period of time in accordance with other legislation. For example, HMRC require payroll records to be kept for three years from the end of the tax year that they relate to.

How can employers comply with the regulation?

To ensure its compliance to the GDPR, an organisation must:

  • have a clear retention policy for handling personal data and ensure it is not held for longer than is necessary
  • have a legal basis for acquiring and/or using any personal data
  • ensure that all staff are aware of the retention policy and follow it
  • respond to subject access requests (sometimes called personal data requests) within one month
  • if there is a personal data breach that is likely to result in a risk to the rights and freedom of an individual, inform the ICO within 72 hours and, if the risk is deemed to be high, also inform the individual concerned.

Some employers will also be required to appoint a Data Protection Officer who can help embed, communicate and monitor the organisation's GDPR data protection policy.

A worker's right to request their personal data

Workers have a right to access information that an employer may hold on them. This could include information regarding any grievances or disciplinary action, or information obtained through monitoring processes.

If a worker wants to see their personal data, they should speak to their employer. Most requests for personal data can be provided quickly and easily.

If the employer is unable or unwilling to agree to the request, a worker could make a subject access request (SAR). A SAR should be in writing and include:

  • full name, address and contact details
  • any information used by the organisation to identify the worker (account numbers, unique IDs etc.)
  • details of the specific information required and any relevant dates.

The time limit is to one month under the GDPR.

While the Data Protection Regulation allowed an employer to charge a fee for Subject Access Requests, fees may only be required under GDPR if the requests are ‘manifestly unfounded or excessive’.

If an employer refuses a request they must inform the individual within one month:

  • why they have refused the request
  • that the individual has the right to complain to the supervisory authority and to a judicial remedy.

Privacy Notices

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) you are required to issue a privacy notice to employees to explain:

  • what personal data is being collected;
  • who is collecting it;
  • how it is being collected;
  • why is it being collected;
  • how it will be used;
  • who it will be shared with;
  • what effect it will have on the employee;
  • the employee’s rights.

GDPR Privacy Notice Template