Workplace Privacy - February HR Breakfast Club Summary

The focus of Australian labour law continues to move beyond securing core industrial rights regarding wages, towards issues surrounding wellbeing, mental health, reputation and workplace privacy. Speaking on workplace privacy and surveillance, Rebecca’s presentation focused on:

  1. whatprivacy legislation applies to your organisation (noting that all employers are subject to legislation surrounding the privacy of Tax File Numbers and health information);
  2. the impending amendments to the Privacy Act 1988(Cth) regarding reporting of privacy breaches and the European General Data Protection Regulations;
  3. when, and how, you can monitor employees in the workplaceand their IT use (emphasizing the importance of making sure your ACT-based organisation has a policy in place that notifies employees of workplace surveillance).

Workplace privacy case study video:

Take aways:

  1. Employee medical files must be kept confidential
  2. Employees must be notified prior to the emails being monitored

Q&A Corner

Q: We share so much of our lives online these days, how can people expect to have privacy in the workplace? What are employers supposed to do when sensitive information is disclosed outside the workplace (for example, on Facebook) and is subsequently the topic of discussion among employees?

A: These days a lot of individuals are willing to share their private lives on social media – but not in their workplaces. It is important that employers comply with the relevant privacy legislation when it comes to information they receive from the employee. Two employees discussing a colleague’s broken leg (after seeing a picture of it shared on Instagram) is not equivalent to an employer discussing an employee’s medical certificate at morning tea.

Q: What constitutes a ‘health record’ for the purposes of the Health Records (Privacy and Access) Act 1997 (ACT)?

A: A ‘health record’ is any ‘record’ which contains ‘personal health information’.

Personal health information is any information:

  1. relating to health, illness or disability; or
  2. (if the employer is a health service provider, such as a hospital) any information collected in relation to the health, illness or disability of a consumer.

A Record is a record in documentary or electronic form that consists of personal health information. Examples of records are:

  1. Documents;
  2. Photographs;
  3. Emails;

This answer is, of course, general commentary only.  It is not legal advice.  Readers must contact us and receive our specific advice on the particular situation that concerns them before acting or refraining from acting.

For more information about workplace privacy, please contact Rebecca Richardson.