Employee privacy is vital to any organisation’s legal and moral duties. In the digital age, balancing the need for security with respect for individual privacy can be complex, especially as technology evolves and new regulations emerge worldwide.
This blog post will delve into various aspects of employee privacy rights in the context of ensuring the protection of employee data while adhering to different international laws, especially for remote workers. Furthermore, we will also explore how automating aspects of employee privacy management can significantly streamline compliance efforts.
Lastly, this post aims to provide insight into preparing your business to stay updated on global workplace privacy laws changes and how to adapt organisational strategies accordingly.
Table of Contents
Privacy Rights of Remote Employees
Knowing where your employees are working from and whether or not you have to consider localised privacy laws is critical for any organisation with a remote workforce. Different jurisdictions have unique requirements when it comes to employee privacy protection. For instance, the European Union enforces strict rules under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). At the same time, other countries like the United States rely on various state statutes such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
As a result, whilst the EU passed a law that applies to all Member States, the United States follows a different approach, with no such law at the Federal level. Thus, it is vital for businesses operating across borders or employing remote workers from different regions to consider their policies accordingly.
- Work with your Data Protection team: Your privacy experts, in-house or outsourced, must be plugged into the HR department at all stages of the employee lifecycle to give you the best chance of a proactive compliance programme.
- Create tailored employee handbooks: Develop region-specific guidelines addressing local data protection standards and include them in your company’s employee handbook or as an annexe to the employment contract.
- Maintain personnel records securely: Ensure all sensitive information about your employees, such as their medical records or private facts, is stored securely and complies with local regulations.
By adapting your organisation’s approach to employee privacy rights based on regional differences, you can begin to ensure a safer working environment for remote employees while maintaining legal compliance.
Privacy Rights of Job Applicants
Most global privacy regulations treat job applicants equally with current employees, requiring organisations to protect their personal data throughout the recruitment process. Employers must be aware of how they collect, store, and use applicant information to inform candidates about these processes. In practice, this helps not only with maintaining compliance but also building trust among potential hires.
Protecting Applicant Data During The Hiring Process
The hiring process often involves collecting a significant amount of personal information from job applicants, such as contact details, work history, and educational background. Employers must take appropriate measures to protect this data against unauthorised access or disclosure. Some best practices include:
- Limiting data collection: Collect only the necessary information to evaluate a candidate’s suitability for a position.
- Implementing appropriate security measures: Use encryption technologies and robust access controls to safeguard applicant data stored on company computers or cloud services.
- Avoiding lifestyle discrimination: Refrain from collecting sensitive data about an applicant (e.g., political affiliations, religious beliefs, health data) unless it directly relates to their ability to perform the job duties.
Incorporating these strategies into your organisation’s hiring process will help you maintain compliance with various privacy regulations and foster trust among potential hires by demonstrating your commitment to protecting their personal information throughout every stage of the recruitment journey.
Managing employee data throughout all stages of the lifecycle
Companies must be able to effectively manage every stage of an employee’s journey within the organisation. Some key aspects include:
- Hiring process: Collecting, storing, and using applicant information securely during recruitment in compliance with applicable regulations.
- Maintaining personnel records: Ensuring secure storage and controlled access to confidential documents like employment contracts, performance evaluations, disciplinary investigations, medical records and other sensitive information.
- Monitoring company time and resources: Implementing policies to balance workplace privacy with the need for monitoring employee activities on company computers while avoiding video surveillance or lifestyle discrimination. We recommend conducting a Data Protection Impact Assessment before implementing any project or application that may be considered surveillance at work, such as CCTV or software installed on devices.
- Departure management: Handling data retention, deletion, or transfer as per legal requirements when an employee leaves the organisation. This may involve updating your employee handbooks to include clear guidelines on handling private information during offboarding processes.
On an increasing basis, we have seen that it is not uncommon, post-departure, for ex-employees to submit a Data Subject Access Request (DSAR). Incorporating automation tools such as the Savannah Discovery and Redaction System into your organisation’s privacy management strategy can give you a significant advantage when navigating the overwhelming task of locating in-scope personal and sensitive data related to the Data Subject and redacting third-party data before supplying a response.
Even within a small business, data sprawl and increase can happen at pace and quickly overwhelm us. Getting ahead with automation tools can ensure your organisation reduces its risk exposure, doesn’t suffer the opportunity cost of staff time away from their day jobs, and ultimately provides a robust and compliant response.
Check out The JSIG Privacy Deep-Dive podcast for a recent discussion on the challenges for HR in the modern data protection landscape:
Preparing For Evolving Global Regulations
As privacy regulations evolve worldwide, organisations must be prepared for changes and updates to maintain compliance and protect their employees’ rights effectively. Companies must review contractual clauses related to data protection and their existing policies periodically – including employee handbooks, ensuring they align with current legal requirements. Considerations include:
- Implementing review procedures: Ensure you have identified the right person responsible for regularly reviewing policies, procedures and contracts related to personal data protection and that you have a well-streamed process in place.
- Reviewing existing policies: Assess your organisation’s current employee privacy practices against the latest legal requirements and make necessary adjustments.
- Updating procedures: Modify internal processes concerning data access, storage, or monitoring in accordance with revised laws or industry standards.
- Educating employees: Inform staff members about policy updates and enable them with appropriate training to ensure the best chance of compliance moving forward.
Ensuring employee privacy is an integral part of any organisation’s compliance strategy, and automation solutions can help organisations remain compliant with changing global regulations while protecting employee data. By taking proactive steps to ensure employees’ privacy is respected throughout their lifecycle, businesses can build trust with their workforce and customers while maintaining a positive reputation in the marketplace.
Take control of your employee privacy rights with JSIG’s comprehensive software and services. Get in touch, let us get you on the path to compliance.