EC privacy proposals will create confusion

Plans by the European Commission to give staff more rights to privacy at
work could confuse employers by forcing them to change their data protection

It was announced last week that the EC has started a second consultation for
legislation on employment-based data protection, which could introduce further
safeguards to protect employees’ rights.

Under the proposals, employers would also have to comply with new frameworks
on access to staff medical records and monitoring.

The planned directive would also place greater constraints on employers when
drug testing their workforce and clarify the position on genetic testing.

The CIPD labelled the planned directive "confusing" because it would
force employers to change their policies on data protection when they are still
getting to grips with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998, which
currently outlines their responsibilities when handling staff information.

Diane Sinclair, the CIPD’s lead adviser on public policy, said: "It is
a huge HR burden potentially. HR may need to make significant changes to
practices and policies soon after the introduction of the Data Protection

"It will have an impact on data that can be kept and processed and will
change the way HR makes decisions about staff."

Senior policy adviser at the CBI Nicola Fenny told Personnel Today the EC’s
plans on data protection are unworkable and undermine the employment contract.

"This is terrible it will lead to further confusion as common
guidelines (the Information Commission’s code of practice) are already in
place," she said.

"It will lead to more red tape for companies and confuse the current
framework in the UK."

The six-week consultation finishes in mid-December. A directive could be
drafted as early as the end of 2003.

By Paul Nelson

Mixed messages over staff rights

The Government is reviewing staff rights to request access to
personal information under the Data Protection Act because it is concerned that
it is confusing HR departments.  

The Lord Chancellor’s Department is consulting employers and
staff as it fears the position over workers’ rights to access is ambiguous
because of contradictions between the Data Protection and Freedom of
Information Acts.

Employers have until the end of January 2003 to respond.

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