HR Tip: Disclosing employees' birthdays

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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: "If someone asks for the date of birth of a colleague and says that it is because they want to send a birthday card we give them the day and month but not the year of birth. However someone objected to that and said that we were breaking the law. Are we?"

HR Tip:
It may sound petty but, yes, you would be in breach of the Data Protection Act. Personal data such as date of birth, home address, telephone number and so on are held by the employer in confidence and should not be revealed unless there is a strict business need to know, the enquirer has a statutory authority to demand the information, or the employee gives permission.

You need to make this quite clear to all your employees. It may well restrict their ability to carry out certain well meaning social functions but it also signals that they can trust you to hold their own personal information in confidence. I suggest that if someone wishes to receive cards from their work colleagues they will find some way of letting them know when to act.

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06th Apr 2007 07:41

This is almost on the same subject:

Online sites (like Boots, M&S, Next and a few others will not even let you process an order until they have your actual date of birth. A simple 'tick if over 18' is not sufficient.

As it is hardly a protective mechanism these days, it must be for marketing purposes and surely is now illegal. Yet still the requirement remains.

What really galls is that it is asked before you even get to your shopping basket!

Needless to say, I have never bought online from these stores as I feel it is ageist.

Euphrosene

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10th Apr 2007 07:33

Ephrosene has I point, I take issue with site "re-check" my address and phone number for "security purposes" or "Data Protection". There is nothing secure or secret about my address or phone number, any Tom, [***] or Harry can look them up - the firm simply wants to ensure I havent moved in case there is a debt problem - but security its not!

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15th Apr 2007 15:09

"and should not be revealed unless there is a strict business need to know"...this is inaccurate, the data most be stored and used in line with the 7 principles. The first principle is that data mustnt be used for purposes other than those stated. Therefore if the reason stated is to ascertain/track/monitor the ages of staff then it is ok to use it for that, if the reason given is to celebrate birthdays then that is also ok to release it. The issue of a 'strict business need' isnt the point its the adherence to the principles that count.

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