It is inevitable that your company will wish to record at least some of your personal data to do business efficiently. They may feel, as a minimum, that they need your address for correspondence and your banking details so they can pay you. You need to go into your relationship with a new employer from a sceptical point of view. Understand how they will use your information, control how you release it and know your rights when it comes to accessing and correcting it later.
Knowing the Policy
If you disagree with anything in the policy then there’s probably not much you can do about it, but at least you will be aware of any areas of concern. If you don’t think there is sufficient protection in place to safeguard your details, or you are being asked for things that you should be able to keep private, you may be able to withhold them.
Withholding Details from Your Employer
It is human nature when seeking information to ask for too much. When you come to refer to it later, it’s possible to disregard unnecessary details but if facts are missing then it could be difficult to find them from another source. Therefore, businesses tend to ask new employees lots of personal things “just in case”. If you don’t believe they need certain facts about you, then you may be able to withhold them (which is not the same as lying about them!).
If you wish to withhold your address, for example, you could take this as far as signing up to an off-site private mailbox. This need not necessarily be a P.O. Box, so the people you give its details to don’t have to know that this is any different from your residential address. This approach would be especially suited to those working from home, although your company may question your motives if you go ahead and do this.
Of course, there’s no point in withholding details if you then make these publicly available yourself. You must take care of your privacy in all aspects of your life. For example, if you choose not to give out your home phone number at work, then it makes no sense to include it on your personal website or your profile page on a social network. Similarly, you should have a shredder and use it to obscure your unwanted paperwork safely before you dispose of it.
Viewing Your Data
The Data Protection Act gives you the right to view records that any organisation, including your employer, holds about you. You may be asked to pay a small fee, and there may be certain types of information that are exempt (in particular, some types of medical record), but the general principle is that you have a fundamental human right to see everything that is held about you.
In theory, the company you work for should be more approachable that other organisations when it comes to asking for access. However, it is reassuring to know that you have a legal right to see it should they be uncooperative.
Related to the right of subject access, where you can inspect your records, is the right to correct any such data that you find to be inaccurate.
Privacy Tips at Work
In short, here are some ways to protect your privacy in the workplace:
only divulge personal facts where there is an obvious need to do so
take sensible measures to protect your privacy outside the workplace, particularly on the Internet
don’t be afraid to exert your right to view and correct the records an organisation holds about you
By following this advice, you should find yourself in a position where your employer holds only the minimum personal information about you necessary for the working relationship to function, you know what knowledge they hold, and it is accurate and up to date.
I have recently been suspended from work, I have found out a work colleague has been discussing this outside of work as my Mother was contacted by phone and told about this, I didn’t want my parents knowing about my suspension as my Dad is I’ll at the moment and they have enough stress to deal with. Surely this is a breach of confidentiality? What should I do, speak with my manager?
Caz - 18-Aug-20 @ 12:38 PM
I have put in a grievance in at work and I lost, I asked to see the witness statements the aggressors statement and the investigation report, I have told my employer to redact any information to any person who hasn't given consent, so I can form my appeal. I was refused this as it not being appropriate.As the information relates to me can they refuse? any how I lost my appeal as I didn't have all the information, I keep asking for this information and they keep refusing as they have duty of care to others.
Pompeysteve - 27-Jul-18 @ 8:55 AM
@DaveM - wow. It's one policy to stop people littering their desks. If you have had a warning that this is going to happen, then your employer is backing themselves up by giving the warning. It's simple, leave nothing on your desk!
MacH - 8-Feb-18 @ 11:31 AM
I have a question regarding personal items at work. My employer has started a clear desk policy at work.
Items are removed from desks and thrown into a corner of the office. These will supposedly be moved and destroyed if not claimed.
Items include coats , spectacles and even work reference manuals.
Are they allowed to destroy items without the owners permission?
DaveM - 7-Feb-18 @ 11:00 AM
I have a question/concerns , is their a way of myself asking my firm,under a freedom of information request, for any email attachments involving my name ? For example between themselves discussing a complaint made by me, but is sent in a discussion private to themselves without my knowledge.
n/a - 4-Jan-18 @ 10:06 PM
@Jennifer - unless there was proof the other person was guilty, your employer cannot do anything.
Berne - 18-Dec-17 @ 10:14 AM
I would be very pleased to have an answer to my doubt. My pay wage envelope was handed to me at my entrance to work. The same to my colleagues. I always open it at home. This time, to give immediate assistance to one of the person who we both look after and that did not feel well, I was absent 5 minutes from my work place to bring her to the office where they will have provide better assistance leaving my pay wage envelop inside a book with other envelopes that were Christmas cards also them closed, over an unattended place. On my return I found everything except my pay wage envelop that was stolen! Since I share my job only with a colleague, it seemed obvious to me that she was the one who stole it because at that time each of the other workers stayed in different places far from me. I immediately mentioned this to my direct superior. After I have spoke with my direct superior my pay wage envelop reappears as if by magic, hidden inside an umbrella that lay next to the place where I had left everything. Obviously had been opened and closed coarsely and with the folded sheet so badly folded that from the window of the envelope could not be possible to read the name of the recipient, me! In the envelop is printed in bold e-Pay on the top right. In short, all arrived to the top top manager. I told him that I do not feel confortable to work with this person now but he could not do much since there was no proof that it was my colleague to steal and open it. He only said that the payroll from now on will be given to all the workers at the end of the job.Now I ask myself, can I request that this colleague be removed from my work station and sent to another and then replaced? I feel so frustrated, unconfortable and anxious to work with this person. Thanks for the answer.
Jennifer - 16-Dec-17 @ 4:41 AM
@JIMBO - Your employer has the right to access your work computer and request a password from you directly.
Liz - 24-Oct-17 @ 12:53 PM
I work in a govt department i have been mistreated at work and been signed off sick by the gp for a month on the first working day of the sick after i had rang the manager to notify him i would be sending my sick note and that i will be off sick he rang me about 6hrs later wanting to know my computer account password claiming he needed access for some pathetic work related need is this legal if i go back to work and find he had the password reset and accessed my account can i complain
JIMBO - 21-Oct-17 @ 1:56 AM
michellem - Your Question:
I have a question/concern in regards to what is/can be considered invasion of ones privacy in the workplace.I have had some issues with a certain person in my office. Even catching them at my desk, in my chair and IN my drawers. Nothing was done. We all have work calendars the company provides to us, I no longer use theirs. This co-worker, for about a year now, likes to write comments and quotes on her calendar about me. She's older, I try to respect my elders. My question is, if she is writing things like "shampoo, use it sometime", "lies like a rug" etc., on her calendar on her desk and someone sees it and/or reads it, is that something that she can now try to say is an invasion of her privacy? Especially now that she knows the company did nothing when she was caught in my desk? I ask to see if this is something that I can discuss with my superior, or if this is something that I could also maybe take up with the Department of Labor. Thank you in advance!
It is highly unlikely she could call this matter an invasion of privacy if the calender is situated on her desk. However, as we are a UK-based site if you are in the US employment laws will differ, therefore we cannot advise as to your best options. You should perhaps discuss this directly with your employer.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 15-Jun-17 @ 2:12 PM
I have a question/concern in regards to what is/can be considered invasion of ones privacy in the workplace.
I have had some issues with a certain person in my office. Even catching them at my desk, in my chair and IN my drawers. Nothing was done. We all have work calendars the company provides to us, I no longer use theirs. This co-worker, for about a year now, likes to write comments and quotes on her calendar about me. She's older, I try to respect my elders. My question is, if she is writing things like "shampoo, use it sometime", "lies like a rug" etc., on her calendar on her desk and someone sees it and/or reads it, is that something that she can now try to say is an invasion of her privacy? Especially now that she knows the company did nothing when she was caught in my desk? I ask to see if this is something that I can discuss with my superior, or if this is something that I could also maybe take up with the Department of Labor.Thank you in advance!
michellem - 14-Jun-17 @ 12:42 PM
I am actually trying to find out some information for my daughter, she is 24, in part time employment, 30 hours a week, for the co op. She was today, out of the blue, no warning, called in and asked if her illness affected her work, she was recently diagonised with E.D.S, she did not know about this when she started her employment, over 2 years ago. She has kept them informed at all times about her health matters regarding this, they actually put her on lighter duties, so she wasn't lifting heavy stuff, as her shoulder dislocates quite easily, now some 7 months on they are saying this could be a problem, and they may have to get rid of her, it was a relief manager and a manager from another store who spoke to her, should they have access to all her medical records? By the way her light duties finished some time ago, she has been pulling large delivery cages in from the lorry and such. Thank you in advance
Tinx65 - 29-Jul-15 @ 7:09 PM
I discovered cctv in my workplace which my co-worker and line manager knew of but not me.I have been assured I am not under suspicion but why was I not told and no discussion had taken place.Who can I complain to, surely notices need to be put up?