PL&B UK E-news, Issue 35
- Information Commissioner publishes health data code
1. Information Commissioner publishes health data code
On Monday, the Information Commissioner’s office published the final section of its four-part ‘Employment Practices Data Protection Code’. Entitled ‘Information About Workers’ Health’, the code deals specifically with the protection of health-related data. Issues covered include sickness and injury records, occupational health schemes as well medical examinations and drug and alcohol testing.
The code states that generally employers should gather health-related data only where there is a legal requirement, if it is for health & safety reasons, or to prevent workplace discrimination. Explicit consent can also be used to justify the collection of health data – although the consent must be freely given.
While the Commissioner’s office stresses that the code is not legally binding on employers, its use will help organisations comply with the Data Protection Act. Legal experts also warn that non-compliance with the code could be cited as evidence in employment tribunals.
Commenting on the code, Assistant Information Commissioner, David Smith, said: “Employers may have alternative ways of meeting their legal requirements under the Data Protection Act when handling information about workers’ health, but if they do nothing to apply the principles behind the code, they risk breaking the law.”
In addition to the main health data code, there is supplementary guidance for larger organisations, as well as a brief guide for small businesses. The three other sections of the Employee Data code relate to recruitment and selection, employment records, and employee monitoring.
Copyright Privacy Laws & Business 2004