Originally published November 2003
Our Care Homes Briefing Number 3 discussed some of the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 (the "Act"), particularly in relation to patient and health records. This briefing now deals with the rules governing employee records and the processing of personal data about employees. Breach of these rules can result in criminal penalties, so it is essential that your systems comply with the law.
Under the Act, "personal data" means information about individuals ("data subjects") who are either named or identifiable from the data, and it can include expressions of opinion and visual data such as photographs. "Processing" of personal data encompasses virtually every activity carried out with data, including storing, sorting and analysing it. The only significant exception is manual records made before October 1998, which are exempted from certain provisions of the Act until October 2007.
The following points should be borne in mind when dealing with personal data in the course of recruiting and managing employees.
There are various types of job for which vetting is appropriate, such as those involving children or vulnerable adults. The applicant must be informed that vetting is being done and must be given an opportunity to make representations about any adverse findings, particularly if the vetting involves not only checking official records - such as the Department of Health register for the protection of children - but also discussing the applicant with third parties.
Verifying job applications
Employers must tell applicants if they propose to verify the statements in their job applications, and how they propose to do it. If any discrepancies are thrown up, the applicant must be given an opportunity to make representations.
Retaining recruitment records
There are no fixed guidelines in the Act on this, so you must decide what is necessary. The information should be kept for, say, six months in case there is any come-back following the recruitment process, for example from an unsuccessful candidate. You also need to consider what information needs to be transferred to the personnel file of the successful applicant or applicants. Interview notes and internal memoranda about applicants and the recruitment process need to be dealt with in the same way as the application forms themselves. If you wish to retain the application to enable you to consider the applicant for future...