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Getting Data Protection Ready


Few areas of law have developed as quickly and with as broad a reach as data protection. It has proven impossible to keep these issues out of the workplace. Even in the rare scenario where work involves little or no contact with the online world, the reality is that management will rely heavily on the convenience of the internet and email. As a result, even in the least digitised workplace, information will likely be retained and possibly shared about employees through digital means.

A legal framework was established through European Directive to address the issue of data protection back in the 1980s. This has developed over time but has struggled to keep pace with such a rapidly changing technological environment. Now, with implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation imminent, that framework has been revolutionised, with significant implications for every business and workplace in Ireland.


Notwithstanding the developments in the legal framework referred to above, the issues challenging most employment law and human resource practitioners remain the same. These include questions such as what information am I entitled to gather and retain in relation to employees who work for the organisation? Most of this information is sought for innocuous reasons – insurance purposes, identifying next of kin to contact in the event of an emergency – but the sensitivities and questions remain nonetheless.

Other matters that can create concern among both employers and employees is the extent to which an employer is entitled to garner detailed medical information relating to an employee. This arises in a variety of scenarios, from attempting to assess accommodation where an employee is operating with a disability to seeking information about the employee’s health in the context of a related investigation, perhaps into a grievance which has been brought.

Finally, with most employees having access to internet and email systems, the questions regarding the extent to which an employer can impose restrictions on the usage of such systems arise, for both productivity and reputational reasons. This inevitably involves the possibility of monitoring the internet usage of employees and even the possibility of tracking an employee’s profile on social media. The question frequently posed – how far is too far in dealing with matters of privacy?

Upcoming dates:

Herbert Park Hotel, DublinSeptember 28, 2017

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