Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How to. It May Be a Surprise to Find out What Your Employer Knows about You, but Lisa Kelly Explains You Have Every Right to Ask and They Can't Refuse to Tell

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

How to. It May Be a Surprise to Find out What Your Employer Knows about You, but Lisa Kelly Explains You Have Every Right to Ask and They Can't Refuse to Tell

Article excerpt

Byline: LISA KELLY

THERE are some things you wouldn't want your best friend to know but, chances are, your employer knows already. I can vouch for this because I recently made a "subject access request" to my old publishing company. It entitles me, like all UK employees, to see copies of personal information held by employers.

A plethora of information duly arrived: contracts, salary reviews, email exchanges, maternity leave forms exposing my employment history and me. Much of it was fairly innocuous but a large chunk of the data was extremely sensitive: copies of email correspondence between human resources and myself over a particularly nasty pregnancy scare, another flurry of emails about problems with a boss over inappropriate remarks he made and, most revealing of all, the findings of a personal profile analysis which amounted to a psychiatric report. Okay, I take no issue with being described as "charming" and "spontaneous", but "socially aggressive" and "showing a tendency toward rebellion"? that's a different matter. I'm not sure I'd like any future reference based on that.

Making a subject access request

Whatever the reason (curiosity, wanting to know why you didn't get that promotion, to arm yourself for a tribunal), you are entitled under the 1998 Data Protection Act to find out what information is held about you electronically or on paper. Most do this after they have left, but, if you're brave enough, you can apply while you are still with the company. "It's not a complicated or difficult process," says Iain Bourne, strategic policy manager at the Information Commission. He's right. I followed a sample letter on the commissioner's website advising me to send a letter by recorded delivery (keeping a copy) to the company secretary requesting "the information to which I am entitled under section 7 (1) of the Data Protection Act 1998".

Simple.

Will it cost much?

For you, it will cost [pound]10 at the most. …

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