I understand staff now have a right to see the information we hold about them? Is this true and do I need to show them everything?
Yes, it is true. Staff now have the right to see information employers hold on them, but not everything. I have noticed that people's eyes tend to glaze over when the words "Data Protection
are mentioned. But you do need to know about it.
Since October 2001, individuals have had the right under the Data Protection Act 1998 to make a "Subject Access Request
and find out what information an organisation has on them. What people did not realise was that this also meant employees can make such a request to their employer. The newly established "Information Commissioner
is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Act. They recently helped stoke the flames by producing an employment practice Data Protection Code. Two of the four parts of the code have been issued, dealing with monitoring employees and recruitment. The parts dealing with records management and medical information are still outstanding but the key points are as follows:
- Staff who make a request have the right to a description of the personal data held on them and copies of the information (unless this would involve disproportionate effort by the employer).
- Only valid requests need be complied with. They must be in writing and accompanied by payment of any prescribed fee (up to £10).
- Open-ended requests such as "give me everything you have
will be invalid.
- You must take care that the data you disclose does not include information about another person.
- Various categories of data are exempt: confidential references, legally privileged documents and so on.
- You should comply with the request promptly and certainly within 40 days. Missing the deadline might result in a complaint to the Information Commissioner.
Of course, it is usually those who have grudges who make requests. This could be to their advantage because under the current rules tribunals only usually order disclosure of documents weeks after the employee has brought a claim.
But don't get too depressed. Staff members do not have carte blanche to ask for all documents about them. You can get hold of a copy of the relevant code from www.dataprotection.gov.uk/commissioner.htm.