UK Data Protection Legislation and its Impact on Human Resource Management

Human resource managers must be aware of the legal environment in order to develop HR policies that conform to relevant government regulations and avoid litigation risks. Abiding by the law is also important in protecting employees’ interests and motivating skilled personnel. One of the legal provisions that guide employers in their HR practices in the UK is the Data Protection Act of 1998. The Act provides regulations to protect employees against data breach and privacy rights violations.

Data Protection Act 1998

Data Protection act 1998 provides guidance on the use of and storage of information and data that they hold within the organization, whether electronically or on paper. The Act contains various parts touching sensitive personal data, special purposes, data protection rules and rights of access to personal among other provisions.

Sensitive data in the Data Protection Act include personal data which contain racial or ethnic background of the person addressed by the data, religious beliefs, mental/physical health, sexual health, etc.

Data protection principles provide that data handlers ought to act in compliance with data protection rules and regulations regarding personal data and sensitive data that he/she is the data handler.

Impact on Human Resource Management

The Data Protection Act of 1998 is applicable to all staff within the organization that create, store, view or handle personal information that relates to any person identifiable to such data. The function of the organization, through the HRM, is to inform staff that they can be held responsible if personal data is improperly collected or disclosed.

The Act defines certain types of information as sensitive data. Employers are restricted from collecting or using such types of data, including recruitment and selection processes. An example is the restriction of seeking information on criminal records to certain posts.

Therefore, HRM procedures should ensure that personal and sensitive data are well stored, protected and disclosed in order to comply with the law. This will affect the HRM’s selection and recruitment processes because such processes require certain personal data to assess the suitability of an individual for a given job.

The HRM should therefore be highly discrete and ensure that the personal data of its potential candidates and employees are well stores and disclosed only to relevant authorities.

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