Over-complex data code will not be changed

The Information Commission has dismissed criticisms by the Better Regulation
Task Force and employers’ groups that its data protection code is unworkable.

The taskforce has joined the HR profession and the CBI in lobbying the
Information Commission to make changes to the code to make it shorter and less

The taskforce is also unhappy with the consultation process, but the
commission is unabashed and is still planning to publish the code in its
present form.

In his letter to the commission David Arculus, taskforce chairman, said:
"The codes do not distinguish clearly enough between what employers have
to do to comply and best practice. By not distinguishing employers will presume
they have to do everything listed in the codes. This only adds to the burden on

However Iain Bourne, strategic policy adviser at the Information Commission,
told Personnel Today there are no plans to review the code, which outlines
employers’ responsibilities when handling staff information under the 1998 Data
Protection Act.

"The process will not be changed, it will carry on as planned," he
said. "The broad content of the code is correct so the general thrust will
not change." He also defended its length and complexity.

"It is going to be some length as it must explain the act properly and
adequately. Employers do not need to memorise the code just use it as and when

Bourne believes that employers are misinterpreting the code by confusing
best practice advice with their actual obligations under the Data Protection

"Organisations should not try to differentiate between what is law and
what is best practice, just what they have to do to make sure they are
complying with the act," he said.

The commission has already published the first part of the code on
recruitment and selection despite mounting pressure from HR for a review. It
fully intends to release the second section on employment records later this
month followed by the sections on monitoring and medical records later in the


By Paul Nelson


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