Data Protection is often a minefield for Employers at the best of times but what Data Protection issues could the Coronavirus outbreak create? We have collated information from a variety of reliable sources and provide it here to ensure UK Employers are aware of their legal obligations and to assist them to deal with the various implications imposed by the rapid spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak.
If you are an employer affected by any of the issues being created by the outbreak of Coronavirus and require further assistance and support, call us now on 0800 612 4772 or Contact us via our website.
This article focuses on Data Protection Issues.
Data protection issues
Do employees have the right to be notified if colleague/customer develops the virus?
The Data Protection Act 2018 defines information about an employee’s health as a “special category of personal data”. This means that it can only be processed by the employer in defined and restricted circumstances.
Employees must be notified of the infection risk as soon as possible. However, the identity of the individual should not be disclosed. An employer should simply advise that an employee who has been in the workplace has been infected and that appropriate precautions should be taken.
The ICO has confirmed that it will take a pragmatic approach to enforcement in light of the pandemic (see ICO Statement: Data protection and coronavirus (12 March 2020)). It has issued ICO: Data protection and coronavirus: what you need to know which confirms that employers can disclose to colleagues that an employee has contracted COVID-19 provided that they do not provide more information than is necessary and, in most cases, it will not be necessary to name the individual.
The COVID-19 pandemic is continually changing and the government advice for employers is being updated as the situation develops. Employers should keep track of the guidance for employers from the following sources:
- Health Protection Scotland: COVID-19: Information and Guidance for Non-Healthcare Settings (applicable in Scotland).
- Public Health England and BEIS: COVID-19: guidance for employees, employers and businesses (applicable in England).
- Welsh Government: Coronavirus (COVID-19): employers and businesses guidance (applicable in Wales).
- WHO guidance: Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19 (applicable globally).
For information on the circumstances in which individuals should self-isolate see the following sources:
- Health Protection Scotland: Coronavirus (COVID-19)and NHS Inform: Coronavirus (COVID-19) (applicable in Scotland)
- Public Health England: COVID-19: stay at home guidance (applicable in England)
- Public Health Wales: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Self-isolation advice (applicable in Wales)