HR Tip: Confidential information on employees over the phone

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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Question: "Someone telephoned us to ask if a certain named person – one of our employees - worked here. I did not know what to do so asked them to ring back. What should I do?"

HR Tip: You should not reveal that information since it would be a breach of the Data Protection Act. When they ring back I advise you to tell them that, if they have a statutory right to know that information, they should send their request in writing. If they fail to convince you of this, I suggest you go on to tell them either of two things, whichever is the more convenient for you. Either tell them to address a letter to the individual, care of you or some other senior manager and you will put it unopened on the notice board in case you do have someone of that name. Or tell them to leave their own name and contact details so that, if you find that you do have such a person working for you, he or she can make contact if he or she so wishes.

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07th Jun 2007 14:49

So, if someone rings up and says "Can I please speak to Mr Smith?" I have to say I can't tell you - write to me and I might tell you?

It looks like data protection is going the way of health and safety and is being used to stop everything. It was designed to stop misuse of SENSITIVE information - like health & sexual orientation!

Please take a common sense view - and refer back to the act.

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08th Jun 2007 08:17

If someone phones and askes "Does Joe Bloggs work for you?" then i see no need to worry about the DPA. "Yes he does" is a perfectly acceptable answer.

If they ask for more specific information about Joe Bloggs then i would start to be concerned about DPA and would ask for the request in writing - giving either the statutory authority to ask for such information or Joe's written permission for me to release such information.

DOn't use the DPA as an excuse to not be helpful!!

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