HR wins battle to simplify the data protection guides

The
Information Commission (IC) is to radically overhaul the structure of all four
of its data protection codes to make them simpler for employers to understand
and use.

New
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has responded to scathing criticism
from the profession over the length and complexity of the codes, which are
designed to help employers manage staff information without breaching the Data
Protection Act 1998.

Personnel
Today has lobbied strongly for the IC to make changes to the codes, and Thomas,
who took over from former commissioner Elizabeth France in December, has now
taken on board its concerns.

Assistant
Information Commissioner David Smith said: "We are reviewing the
presentation to make it more user friendly and looking at the lengths of the
codes. Commissioner Thomas feels the code’s presentation could be improved to
get the message across to the audience better."

Smith
told Personnel Today that the commission will start by revamping the
controversial monitoring code which was due to be published last year.

The
decision will further delay the publication of the monitoring code for up to
two months and will put back the fourth code on medical records until the final
quarter of this year.

Smith
said the two published codes, Recruitment and Selection, and Records
Management, will then be updated to ensure the style is consistent.

Diane
Sinclair, lead adviser on public policy at the CIPD, which had also campaigned
for changes to the codes, supported the plans to overhaul their presentation.

"A
significantly re-drafted code will be of much more value to HR practitioners.
Currently, it is too long and complicated. It should be a checklist of the
minimum legal standards that companies must work to," she said.

By
Paul Nelson

www.dataprotection.gov.uk

Timeline
Data Protection codes

October
2000 – The three-month open consultation for the Data Protection Act’s codes of
practice is launched

July
2001 – A crisis conference is held to reassure employers that the code would be
simplified for business and published by the end of the year

October
2001 – The 1998 Data Protection Act comes into force

March
2002 – The first of the codes, Recruitment and Selection, is published

April
2002 – The second draft version of the monitoring code is released

May
2002 – Employer bodies complain to the Government over the commission’s
handling of the code

July
2002 – The third draft version of the monitoring code is published

September
2002 – The second of the codes, Records Management, is published

December
2002 – Richard Thomas replaces Elizabeth France as Information Commissioner

January
2003 – Further delays as commission seeks to clarify codes

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