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Privacy Laws at Work

By: Matthew Strawbridge - Updated: 23 Aug 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Act Laws Privacy Information Rights Data

There are various laws in the United Kingdom that affect your entitlement to privacy in the workplace. This article gives a brief summary of the most important ones. More detailed discussion about these laws is available elsewhere on this website.

Human Rights

The European Convention on Human Rights was drawn up to defend the fundamental liberties of the population of Europe. There is specific provision regarding the right to respect for privacy, which is given in Article 8.

In the United Kingdom, this has been brought into law by the Human Rights Act 1998. If you feel that your right to privacy has been infringed at work, and your employer does not or cannot rectify the situation, then you may have a right to make a legal claim under this legislation.

Data Protection

The Data Protection Act 1998 is a law designed to control how organisations use details about living people. It is overseen by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), who supply useful guidance that businesses can use to ensure their policies comply with the law.

This legislation puts in place responsibilities relating to the collection, storage, processing and disposal of personal details, as well as allowing access to the subjects about whom particulars are held.

Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 allows people or companies to access facts about public bodies.

This law should only be of concern if you have given your details to a public authority – either directly or as a result of records passed on by a third party – which is then disclosed in a response to a request under the Act. Note that this should not happen because the public authority has a duty to safeguard your private credentials under the Data Protection Act, but this legislation does make an accident of this type more likely.

Health and Safety

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 demand that employers conduct formal risk assessments relating to the safety of the employees in their charge. There may be concerns when these assessments require the collection of personal records from an employee, such as a test to detect drug or alcohol use.

Employees in the transportation industries are subject to specific laws relating to intoxicating substances: The Transport and Works Act 1992 and the Railway and Transport Safety Act 2003, which builds upon it.

A Summary of the Law

The Human Rights Act is important because it establishes that a private life is a fundamental human right that must be defended. It states your right to privacy both from other individuals and from public bodies.

The Data Protection Act makes specific provisions for ensuring that organisations handle your personal details with respect, and gives you the ability to view and correct them if you choose.

Freedom of information is important only in that it makes it more likely that personal details about you could accidentally be leaked.

Finally, there are various laws relating to health and safety that could compromise the confidentiality of your private actions, particularly regarding employers’ entitlement to administer tests for the presence of alcohol or other intoxicating substances.

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A friend has just told her supervisor that she's expecting, her supervisor has now told all the guys that she's working with on site and now the whole company knows, is there any action she can take because of this?
JJ - 23-Aug-18 @ 12:38 PM
My old employer has sent out my p45 and wage slip to another ex employee, he has received not only mind but 3 other individuals as well! I have spoken with the ICO who have advised me to contact HR with a letter of formal grievance. But I want to take this further, I want legal action against them for abusing my human rights by breaching my confidentiality. What can I do?
JR - 20-Aug-18 @ 9:46 AM
MM - Your Question:
Hi I have been offered a new job by a company. I spoke to my current manager about this. It transpires that this information is now common knowledge areound the office and even employees from the new company know that I have been made an offer due to the leak of info from my current employer. What are my rights?

Our Response:
Your only recourse would be to raise a grievance, please see link here if you feel you have been treated unfairly.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 28-Jun-18 @ 3:23 PM
Hi I have been offered a new job by a company. I spoke to my current manager about this. It transpires that this information is now common knowledge areound the office and even employees from the new company know that I have been made an offer due to the leak of info from my current employer. What are my rights?
MM - 26-Jun-18 @ 10:28 PM
@Liz - it depends where you work and what the reason are for the cameras and whether it forms part of your working contract.
Bill - 18-May-18 @ 10:40 AM
Cameras at work are watched all the time.... we are a small shop And now microphones listening to everything we say.... it’s like being in the big brother house Is this allowed ?
Liz - 17-May-18 @ 8:32 AM
Susannah - Your Question:
My husband was ‘compromised’ out of his job after 18 years with his company. He had no warning and on the day that he left the HR manager emailed every one of his staff, customers and clients to tell them that he had been “put on gardening leave” and that “no one should speak to him for legal reasons”. It turns out that this did not actually have any legal basis and that through this act he was prevented from communications about the true reasons for the true reasons termination his employment (restructuring) until after he had agreed a settlement. It has destroyed his reputation in the specialist industry he works in and also in the small local community where we live. What can we do?

Our Response:
Your husband can make a claim to an employment tribunal if he feels he has been treated unlwafully, please see link here . In this case, he would be advised to speak to Acas first in order to fully explore his rights.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 15-May-18 @ 2:22 PM
My husband was ‘compromised’ out of his job after 18 years with his company. He had no warning and on the day that he left the HR manager emailed every one of his staff, customers and clients to tell them that he had been “put on gardening leave” and that “no one should speak to him for legal reasons”. It turns out that this did not actually have any legal basis and that through this act he was prevented from communications about the true reasons for the true reasons termination his employment (restructuring) until after he had agreed a settlement. It has destroyed his reputation in the specialist industry he works in and also in the small local community where we live. What can we do?
Susannah - 14-May-18 @ 11:54 PM
Hi, I was due to receive a warning due to an accident, the details of the meeting was issued on a generic email, I was last to know is this a breach of the confidentiality act.
Bill - 24-Mar-18 @ 8:32 PM
Hi at my current job the cheif executive and security manager sit and watch the staff live and played back on cctv, whilst i understand they do this for security purposes can they do things for instance the amount of time certain employees are standing around doung nothing and then use that as evidence and grounds for a disaplinary? Surely people are allowed to stand around for breif periods of time, after all did they see what the person was doing prior to stopping maybe they'd been doing a physically tiring job and needed a breather. Is this a gross miss use of cctv and power that leads to and infringement of their right to some degree of personal privacy at work?
Loz - 21-Mar-18 @ 6:14 PM
dave5416 - Your Question:
Can I claim abuse of my human right to privacy if my employer insists I share a hotel room with a co worker.? Im in mid 50’s and dont ferl comfortable with this un written policy. It was never brought up at interview that this practice is company policy when working on a particular account. I am on medication which has embarrassing side effects on want my right to privacy respected.

Our Response:
You would have to speak to your employer directly regarding this matter and try to resolve it informally. Discussing the matter and the reasons why you do not wish to share a room should help. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, then please see the CAB link here for further information.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 16-Mar-18 @ 9:23 AM
Can I claim abuse of my human right to privacy if my employer insists I share a hotel room with a co worker.? Im in mid 50’s and dont ferl comfortable with this un written policy. It was never brought up at interview that this practice is company policy when working on a particular account. I am on medication which has embarrassing side effects on want my right to privacy respected.
dave5416 - 15-Mar-18 @ 5:16 PM
@Jules - it depends on what the reason your employer gave it to the DVLA was i.e if you have a company car, then the DVLA will want to know who is driving it.
ErinBV - 26-Jan-18 @ 10:47 AM
I believe that my employer gave my name and address to the DVLA without my authority, is this legal?
Jules - 25-Jan-18 @ 10:23 AM
A few weeks ago I emailed my HR Advisor to ask how I go about requesting a pay rise, in that email I merely stated a brief overview of why I was wanting one, saying I was over worked and and not paid enough for what I do. Today I had a meeting to discuss this. I have not discussed this issue with anyone, I merely emailed them asking for some guidance. I feel they havebreached my right to privacy and abused their position of trust. What can I do?
J man - 10-Nov-17 @ 4:58 PM
I work for a local council, im front of house, so ideal with the public everyday in person. When a customer gets angry they always ask for a name. (thats fine) but do they need to know our surname. First name i dont mind giving out, but i dont feel comfortable giving out my surname. Ive heard stories of people giving out their surname and next thing, they are being harrassed on social media or followed home etc. If people as for a surname is it a legal requirment for us to give it.
Nicole - 25-Oct-17 @ 1:59 PM
Kellie - Your Question:
I have just found out my manager is spreading rumours at my work about me. like telling customers that I am off poorly as im a drunk and much worse things. Its not first time either. My big big boss is not approachable either cause the nasty boss denies it everytime ??

Our Response:
If you’re a worker and you’ve tried solving a problem or concern informally by talking to your manager but you’re not satisfied, you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing, please see link here.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 16-Oct-17 @ 2:15 PM
I have just found out my manager is spreading rumours at my work about me.... like telling customers that i am off poorly as im a drunk and much worse things. Its not first time either. My big big boss is not approachable either cause the nasty boss denies it everytime ??
Kellie - 15-Oct-17 @ 4:16 PM
I work a federal govt job. A co-worker that I have not seen or had contact with in over a year found a personals ad of me on Craigslist and screen shot it and passed it throughout the organization. Being female, and of a certain sexual orientation can anything be done? I had mediation today and the employer refuses to do anything! Please help!
Star - 16-Aug-17 @ 10:44 PM
I've been working for two years with this company and I had some family problems at the time so I had time off I sorted them out and came back to work. For almost a year I've had two people interfere in my personal life and now they have gone to far I'm suspended from work till my hearing on a certain date but my point is the two people in the room was me the manger and deputy manager I've had messages from other colleagues asking me why I've been suspended when I was told it was private and confidential can someone help
???? - 2-Aug-17 @ 10:55 PM
Can my employer put driver facing cameras in my lorry as i live in all week. Its not just a place of work its my home for the week.
Matty - 1-Aug-17 @ 11:31 PM
Hi, I'm a manager of a dental practice. We have a sister clinic but they are under another limited company. We have same owner but separate accounts. Payroll is done by same company but manager sent payslips of employees from my practice by email to me and to the manager from other clinic asking her about something else not relevant to my payslips. When I said it shouldn't be shared because these are confidential information she replied that other person is also a manager not employee so she doesn't need to put password on the payslips. She is a manager but of different company and clinic. My question is: is she right, I can't demant confidentiality of earning of my employees and mines? Many thanks.
Colgate - 24-Jun-17 @ 10:37 AM
I work for a company A that provides a I.T. managed service to another company B. Company B has insisted on by date birth information to fill out their HR database in order to gain access to their building's and IT networks. I have said they have no need for this information as I am not directly employed by them and it isn't required to perform my role. They have basically said they need it else I won't be given the access. Others in company A are questioning why this information is also being held. 2 questions 1) Am I legally correct in the fact I don't have to supply my date of birth to another company. 2) If another company has my date birth on file can I request it is removed and what can quote to them in terms of the data protection act for them to take it seriously. Thanks
rossy - 9-Jun-17 @ 1:25 PM
Aby - Your Question:
I am a manager of a small high street store. Because I was made admin for the shops Facebook page it is unfortunately attached to my own personal Facebook. While trying to rectify this and remove it from my Facebook a colleague and myself used the work laptop. I was unable to remove the work Facebook from my personal account and I made it clear to the company social media expert that I didn't think this was appropriate. A few weeks later and I had four days off for my birthday. While I was off my trainee manager whom I thought I had a great relationship with has opened up my Facebook page on the laptop and gone through my personal messages!! She has then made a complaint about another colleague ( a close friend that works with us but had previously had a strained relationship with the trainee) basically the trainee had gone through my private messages on messenger and seen things she didn't like! Private conversations that occasionally were about her. But apart from that there is a million other private messages! Between myself and my husband, children, family friends etc. I feel violated by this intrusion and don't understand why she did this? What was she looking for?? Is this legal?

Our Response:
In the first instance you should complain to your employer about your colleagues actions in order to try to resolve the issue. If you are not satisfied with your employer's response, you will have the option to raise a grievance, please see link here.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 18-May-17 @ 2:30 PM
I am a manager of a small high street store. Because I was made admin for the shops Facebook page it is unfortunately attached to my own personal Facebook. While trying to rectify this and remove it from my Facebook a colleague and myself used the work laptop. I was unable to remove the work Facebook from my personal account and I made it clear to the company social media expert that I didn't think this was appropriate. A few weeks later and I had four days off for my birthday. While I was off my trainee manager whom I thought I had a great relationship with has opened up my Facebook page on the laptop and gone through my personal messages!! She has then made a complaint about another colleague ( a close friend that works with us but had previously had a strained relationship with the trainee)basically the trainee had gone through my private messages on messenger and seen things she didn't like! Private conversations that occasionally were about her. But apart from that there is a million other private messages! Between myself and my husband, children, family friends etc. I feel violated by this intrusion and don't understand why she did this? What was she looking for?? Is this legal?
Aby - 18-May-17 @ 1:24 PM
Hi, My company has various 'Key Productivity Indicators' for member of the Service Teams only. The KPI is used to assess Annual Performance Reviews & Salary Increases for Service Personnel only (Management, Admin, Sales, etc not included in this KPI system unique to Service Personnel). These KPI include sickness / work absences; where both Sickness & Authorised Absences reduce your KPI score. The KPI league tables are distributed throughout Management, Admin & Service Personnel Colleagues and includes Personnel Name & number of sick / absence days. Is the publication of private absence days to colleagues an infringement of Privacy At Work & or Data Protection Laws in UK? Also; is this a fair assessment of Service Personnel; when other colleagues in other departments do not have the 'Absence' black-marked against them in 'UN-PUBLISHED' and UN-CIRCULATED' KPI results? Any help or advice greatly appreciated.
DaintyRae - 26-Apr-17 @ 7:35 PM
My Director of the company lives abroad and manages the IT. I got an email yesterday regarding an article my business will be publishing in a large publication. I replied with changes. I have just had an email from the director replying to the email that was never went to him telling me of feedback to this article.He has obviously snopped my emails and picked it up!!! He is a sleeping partner of business and only helps with IT and server issues. No other duty.Is this against the Human Rights Act? Before I realise an issue. Thanks!!
Gemgem - 24-Mar-17 @ 6:50 AM
I told my boss at work that I was pregnant due to working in a hot kitchen and the complications I was having with it. I have now told my friends and it is now public knowledge but i have since found out that before I'd told them my boss had told a mutual friend of ours about my pregnancy. Who doesn't work with us. when I asked my bosswhy he told someone without my permission and I told him how angry I was he "oh sorry I just had to "and disappeared. Is this a breach of confidently and what can I do about it.
Charley - 18-Mar-17 @ 6:50 PM
Hi,could you please explain what are my rights against my employers that asks me to produce a doctor letter to give me a permit for a doc appointment ? I am ok to show a proof of appointment but this doc is a consultant and I do not want my employer to know what is the problem I am going to the doctor for.I think this is illegal! Coul you please advise me?
Baby - 3-Mar-17 @ 1:48 PM
A colleague of mine gave out all of my personal details including working hours and start of employment etc to a stranger who walked into our place of employment. She did not ask for ID of who this person was. She told them and signed a paper then. I did not know about this and did not consent. What are my rights?
Quickname - 9-Feb-17 @ 5:50 PM
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