Privacy is not only a factor when dealing with your customers, but also when it comes to your employees. Certain businesses may not be required to comply with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (“the Act”). They may not satisfy the necessary criteria attracting these obligations.

It is important, however, to understand the possible obligations you may have for your business to run according to best practice. This article will set out a few principles that every business should know.

APP Entity and Personal Information

There are a few definitions that will always arise when it comes to privacy. The first is the definition of an Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) Entity. As touched upon above, not all businesses need to comply with the Act. Usually,  businesses with an upwards annual turnover of $3 million will be considered an APP Entity. There are some exceptions, however, so it may be worthwhile speaking to a lawyer to determine whether you are an APP entity.

Another relevant definition is “personal information”. This refers to the pool of details that can be used to identify a person. Sensitive information takes it a step further than personal information and includes details that may relate to your beliefs or worldview. This includes information relating to your political opinion or your religious beliefs.

Why is Privacy Important in a Workplace Setting?

Simply put, an employer has access to extensive information about their workers. Employees need to have the ability to ensure their employer maintains their privacy. Think about all the information needed before a candidate even lands the job. Your name is an obvious one, but you may need to provide details such as your bank account, tax file number or educational background. 

The Act applies in circumstances when the employer uses the information collected from the employee for a purpose that is unrelated to the employment relationship. For an organisation to work according to best practice, they need to consider informing the employees of:

  • when the business collects personal information;
  • the purpose of collecting the information;
  • how the employee can access the information; and
  • whether the employer has plans to share information with separate entities.

Disclosure of Information

There are circumstances when it may be necessary to disclose an employee’s information to another third party. Third parties that may have access to the employer’s records and the purposes as to why they do include: 

  • Fair Work Inspector: to determine that an employer meets their obligations
  • Government Agency: enacting their duties, e.g., Australian Tax Office
  • Employee associations: investigating an employer’s obligations

Conclusion

This article provides an overview of privacy in the workplace. If you are unsure of your obligations to your employee when it comes to the collection and use of their information, speak to our team of specialist employment lawyers! Operating at best practice helps to ensure your business is compliant with the Act and can handle all employee enquiries relating to the use and collection of their personal information.

Kristine Biason

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