GDPR compliance and responsibility will more often than not fall to HR, so HR professionals need to have a good understanding of the regulations and how to apply them. In this blog, we’ll look closely at the key principles of GDPR and how it applies to HR.
What is GDPR?
GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and is a set of provisions that in 2018 were incorporated into the Data Protection Act. In an HR context, GDPR relates to how businesses collect, store and use employee data. The legislation is lengthy but the following overview will provide a start in understanding and effectively managing GDPR in HR.
GDPR sets out the following seven key principles which lie at the heart of data protection and these principles act as the basis for best practice in correctly handling employee data:
- Lawfulness, fairness and transparency
- Purpose limitation
- Data minimisation
- Storage limitation
- Integrity and confidentiality (security)
You can read the full definitions of these principles here.
Complying with GDPR
The most important tasks for HR when it comes to effectively managing GDPR are as follows:
Your business should have a specific GDPR policy. It needs to set out general information about GDPR as well as what is known as a privacy notice so that employees understand why you collect their data, what data you collect, how it is used and stored and what their rights are. These policies should be communicated and readily available to staff.
It’s essential that employers only collect employee data that they absolutely need, that they have consent to process that data and that it is only retained for as long as is necessary. Your business should therefore ensure that its day to day working practices reflect these requirements. For example staff should be clear about what data they are supplying and what you will do with it.
Having a data retention schedule is also good practice but you should ensure that it is regularly checked and that data is securely deleted or disposed of once it is no longer needed. You should also assign a suitably trained and knowledgeable member of your team as the Data Protection Officer (DPO). This will allow staff know who to speak to if they have queries or concerns and that there is a nominated person to deal with Subject Access Requests or data breaches should they arise.
Keeping data secure is of paramount importance whatever format you hold data in. If you keep data in hard copies make sure that you have a clear desk policy and lockable, non-portable storage to keep the data in. Likewise, if you store data electronically you should protect that data through appropriate cyber security and always ensure that only those who genuinely need access to the data in order to perform their roles have it.
Getting it wrong
If GDPR is not managed effectively or appropriately then the consequences can be wide ranging. If staff believe that their data is not being collected, used or stored correctly this may result in grievances and loss of trust from staff in an employer. In such instances staff can make a report to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and this could result in investigations which can be stressful and time consuming for all concerned. If a business is found to have breached GDPR then this could result in reputational damage and the fines can also be significant. For example, H&M were fined approximately £30.4 million in 2020 for unlawfully collecting and storing information about employees’ families, religions and medical history.
Whilst H&M is an extreme example there are set penalty levels. Infringements deemed to be less severe can lead to a fine of up to €10 million, or 2% of the firm’s worldwide annual revenue from the preceding financial year, whichever amount is higher. More serious infringements could result in a fine of up to €20 million, or 4% of the firm’s worldwide annual revenue from the preceding financial year, whichever amount is higher.
Does HRX comply with GDPR?
Absolutely! Whist the system stores the data securely (in an encrypted format using Transport Layer Security (TLS), specifically HTTPS using a secure connection), you remain the owner and controller of the data. HRX are merely the order processor and in this capacity process data exclusively at your instruction. You can also be confident that all data held within the system will be stored securely in the UK and / or the EU. If you ever decide to leave us, we’ll keep your data for 30 days after so that you can change your mind. If you don’t come back to us in that 30 days, your data is destroyed. By having different levels of users we also ensure that employees only see what they should see in order to do their job.