Code will achieve the opposite of its purpose

In the past, Personnel Today has campaigned for the Government to act to
improve the consultation process for introducing new legislation and the
quality of employment regulations.

When the Better Regulation Task Force was set up, we, along with many
employers, hoped that the issue would finally be addressed. Last week, it was
encouraging to see the taskforce complain to the Information Commission about
its notorious draft code of practice on the Data Protection Act.

So far, so good. Unfortunately, the commission has chosen to ignore the
letter from the taskforce, together with those from the CIPD and the CBI which prompted
them. It has told Personnel Today there will be no changes to the code (News,
page 1).

Up until now, the commission might have got away with dismissing employers’
concerns with the retort: ‘Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?’. However,
ignoring a letter from the chairman of the Better Regulation Task Force
indicates the commission has become a law unto itself.

The commission’s rationale for producing the code is nonsense and a recipe
for red tape and confusion. It justifies the length of the code by arguing it
is a comprehensive reference document for employers.

If this was really its purpose, the commission should have made every effort
to make it easy for managers to find specific requirements within the code, and
it should have been crystal clear what parts required compliance and what were
included as examples of good practice.

The purpose of the code is to stop people from breaking data protection law
but the way it has been written will achieve the opposite – managers will be
put off by its length and lack of clarity and will actually be more likely to
break the law as a result.

As it stands, the whole episode has been a waste of time and the real scope
of the legislation will have to be decided in the courts.

By Noel O’Reilly

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