The ICO exists to empower you through information.

Employment practices and data protection; information about workers' health

A blog by Elanor McCombe, Group Manager - Policy

27 October 2022

Working life for millions of people has changed a lot over the past few years. Every sector, industry and size of business has been affected by the pandemic and the accelerated pace of change of the workplace; whether that’s through a rise in remote working, the use of artificial intelligence to sift and respond to job applications or the increased use of monitoring technologies.

It's important that employers understand how using these technologies can impact on their workers’ privacy. It’s also important that workers understand what’s happening with their information and what their rights are.

That’s where we come in.

Data protection is not a barrier to the use of new technologies to improve and develop employment practices. Data protection enables innovation to happen responsibly. It also builds trust between employers and workers.

We’ve recently launched a consultation on our draft monitoring at work guidance, which offers practical advice about monitoring workers in line with data protection legislation. It lets employers know what they need to tell their workers if they’re using monitoring technologies, and it lets workers know what their rights are under data protection law. This consultation runs until 11 January 2023.

Today, we’re launching a second consultation. We’re looking for your views on our draft guidance about workers’ health information. As an employer, you’re likely to process a lot of information about your workers and their health, such as occupational health reports or sickness absences. It’s vital, for you and your workers, that you know how to look after this sensitive information. Read our guidance and let us know your thoughts – this consultation is open until 26 January 2023.

These consultations are the first part of an ongoing project to replace our employment code of practice with new, UK GDPR-focused guidance. We’re aiming to create a hub – a one-stop shop for employers and workers to visit and quickly find the answers to their questions. This forms a key part of our commitment laid out in our new three-year strategy, ICO25, to empower responsible innovation. We’re keen to help organisations understand their responsibilities under data protection law, and one of the ways we can do this is by creating helpful, easy-to-understand guidance.

As the world of work continues to adjust to rapid change brought about by the pandemic and other factors, so too must our guidance and the support we offer to organisations. That’s why we’re taking a different approach to our employment guidance project and consulting throughout, asking you to tell us how and where you need the most support and clarity.

Make our guidance work for you. Have your say and contribute to our consultations – both are live on the website now.

Elanor McCombe is a Group Manager at the ICO leading one of ICO’s two Policy Guidance Teams. Elanor’s team creates and maintains ICO guidance to help organisations understand and comply with data protection law. The team is currently focussed on developing a new hub of guidance about data protection and employment practices.