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Employees have a contractual right to know what information their employer is holding in which they (the employee) is named and implicated. This includes documentation held on a central HR system or personnel file as well as documentation held by a department line manager, supervisor or team leader, in respect of performance, capability and conduct management processes.
The process followed to seek out the information is called a right of access, a Subject Access Request (SAR) and an employee can make a SAR request verbally or in writing – although we always advise that a SAR request is put in writing to ensure every aspect of that request is properly understood by the employer.
Employees are entitled to know why certain decisions were made about them, by their employer. An employee has a right to know that the data is accurate, is being handled properly and who the information is being shared with. With good reason, an employee can even request that certain data is deleted from their personnel file.
A SAR request would typically include emails between senior or middle management, HR and others, in which the employee is named and which may have a contractual or potentially life-changing impact on that employee. For example, debates about promotion, pay, formal processes and/or complaints, in which the employee is referenced.
Understanding all of the above may help an employee with a dispute resolution process in the workplace. The information will help an employee both understand and exercise their full contractual rights. It’s a bit like a patients’ right to receive a copy of their medical file from the NHS or their GP. The same principle applies.
So, if you are embarking in a formal process at work such as a disciplinary, a grievance, a redundancy, suspension or dismissal appeals process – you should consider submitting a SAR to your employer. See our recommended template SAR letter to ensure you have covered every aspect of your data request.
This is probably the most common question we are asked at the helpline. It’s a very good question. Employers are duty bound to respond to a SAR request within one month. However, if the SAR is complex an employer may need extra time to consider and gather the data. They can seek an extra two months ie: three months in total. If the employer needs to seek extra time, they should let you / their employee know within one month, that they need more time and why.
If you submit a written SAR and receive no acknowledgement from your employer within, say, 10 working days - we recommend you send a second, signed and dated, copy of your SAR by Registered Post. Do not rely on email as it can be unreliable.
If an employer continues to refuse to respond to a reasonable SAR request you can;
• Contact us on 0845 22 55 787 or
• Contact the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) at www.ico.org.uk
The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
For further information call 0845 22 55 787
This guide explains how to make a subject access request including template SAR letter to ensure you have covered every aspect of your data request. We ask for a small contribution of 10.00 for each download. All of the funds raised from these guides will be used to run the helpline and website.
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