Rights under the Data Protection Act

Site updated on February 17, 2020

This controls the actions of all data users – those who hold data of a personal nature. In effect, virtually all employers are data users and should be registered with the Information Commission.

The  Data Protection Act provides you with a right of access to your personal data , held by your Employer, or indeed a previous Employer. As well as information stored on computer, you may request access to information stored in “an organised filing system”. In general terms, this now means that most employees have got the right of access to information stored about them in personnel files whether held on computer or not. The scope of the legislation would include files held by supervisors where information is stored which identifies employees individually.

Job applicants have the right to access information held by an Employer following recruitment. This applies if you are unsuccessful in your application.

Data protection rights also cover your Employer monitoring you in the workplace, perhaps by recording telephone calls, using CCTV or viewing your e-mails for example.

Some of your personal data/information is classed as “sensitive”. This includes data on race, trade union membership, health information, criminal convictions, sexual orientation etc. Your Employer should obtain your express (written) permission to hold or use this information.

Your Employer is also required to ensure that data held about you is secure and adequate controls are in place. This may include passwords on computers, entry controls on certain doors and locked cupboards in the HR/Personnel Department for example. If you are concerned about this, see your HR Department or Union Rep.

You can now gain access to data stored about you by making a request to your employer (the data user). You need to put your request in writing saying why you would like the information. Your employer can in fact request a fee of not more than £10, which should be in a Data Protection Policy. Your employer then has up to 40 days in which to provide the information requested. You can complain to a Tribunal if you are refused access.

Employers are required to inform employees and job applicants that information about them is being collected and stored. You should also be told for what purpose the information is being used. Application forms should clarify the position of data collected during recruitment. If you think that you have suffered discrimination in the recruitment process, at interview perhaps, you can request a copy of your interview notes. In certain situations you can get hold of a reference written about you by your employer or by a previous employer.

You are able to request access to any information held on you by a previous Employer.

Data on employees should be accurate and up-to-date, and only used for the purpose it was collected for. To achieve this, some employers have given open access to enable employees to review all the data held about them. Your employer must take steps to ensure that information held about you is kept confidential. More and more employers are creating a policy on data protection which involves giving employees an annual review of the information held about them.

A breach of the Data Protection Act is not something that Employment Tribunals deal with. It will mean a civil action for loss or damage. It is therefore advisable to contact our Advice Line if you have a complaint about your Employer losing or misusing any personal information about you.

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