General Data Protection Regulations: What the Changes mean for Employers

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03 Jul 2017

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In May 2018, the new General Protection Regulation will be introduced in the UK, making significant changes to the way that employers handle their employees’ data. Here, we take a look at what employers need to know.

Current Data Protection Law

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) currently sets out what information is classed as ‘data’ and how employers should manage the ‘personal and sensitive data’ of their employees, it is intended to ensure data about individuals is not used in an unfair and unlawful way. It also provides for a mechanism for employees to be able to see the data that their employer holds on them i.e. a Subject Access Request.

General Data Protection Regulation

This will build on current legislation and provide more protection for consumers and more privacy considerations for organisations. It will put the onus on companies to change their “entire ethos” on data protection with the main focus on increased accountability and transparency to how organisations hold data.

Main Changes

  • Employee consent to their employer processing their data will need to be informed, freely given and specific. Employee handbooks will need to be reviewed in this regard;
  • Data protection risk assessments are likely to be required when carrying out a new project or implementing a new system;
  • When responding to a Subject Access Request, employers will no longer be able to charge the employee a fee for gathering the information unless the request is manifestly unfounded or excessive, in which case a “reasonable fee” can be applied. The information will have to be provided without delay and within one month at the latest (currently a 40 day limit applies);
  • Individuals will have new rights to have data corrected; restrict how it is used and to be ‘forgotten’;
  • Data processers will no longer need to inform the Information Commissioner’s Office annually of data processing activities. Instead there will be increased record keeping requirements;
  • Maximum fines for very serious instances of non-compliance will increase from £500,000 to £20 million or 4% of an organisation’s worldwide annual turnover, whichever is the highest.

Croner Tips

  • The Government will be given some leeway to make its own law on data protection so employers should continue to keep an eye on developments in this area;
  • With maximum fines increasing so significantly, employers must be sure they are comfortable with the changes. The starting point is likely to be a review of all data protection documentation in place to ensure it remains valid.

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