COVID-19, data protection and common concerns
The ICO has indicated that in these challenging times employers should adopt a proportionate approach to data protection giving guidance on the following key areas of concern:
Do data protection laws prevent employees from working at home?
Data protection laws should not prevent homeworking during the pandemic.
Does the current situation negate the need for data security measures when employees are working remotely?
No. Employers should introduce the same security measures as they would usually adopt for all homeworkers.
It is our view that employers implementing widescale homeworking should introduce clear guidelines to manage expectations, control health and safety and protect confidentiality and data.
In the case of data security and confidentiality for homeworking, we would recommend as a starting point that employers:
- Assess the risk of a data breach arising from homeworking. This will assist to identify what measures and controls need to be introduced.
- Ensure employees are aware that data security and confidentiality is their responsibility. Now is the time to direct them to your policies governing IT and communications, data protection and data retention. Consideration should be given as to whether these may need to be updated to reflect homeworking.
- Issue specific guidance relevant to the business regarding data security in the context of homeworking. For example, the mandatory use of encryption and passwords, keeping all papers securely and not allowing household members to use company IT equipment.
Make sure employees know what to do and who to contact if they discover a security or data breach.
Can we tell employees about cases of COVID-19?
Yes. Staff should be kept informed about cases of COVID-19. This is on the basis employers need to satisfy their duty of care regarding health and safety. Individuals must not be named and no more information than is necessary should be provided.
What if we are asked by the public health authorities to share employee health information?
Organisations may share employees’ health information with authorities for public health purposes.
FG Solicitors are experts in all areas of Employment Law and HR, including Data Protection and we can provide guidance around the issues that may arise if you are currently transitioning from office-based working to homeworking. Feel free to call us on 0808 172 9322 for a no obligation discussion.