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Top tips for dealing with a Subject Access Request from Irwell Law

Top tips for dealing with a Subject Access Request from Irwell Law
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

It might be daunting to receive a Subject Access Request (SAR) from an employee, and it may feel like you have a mountain to climb, but here are some top tips and lesser-known facts to help lessen the load.

Under data protection legislation, individuals have the right to a copy of the personal data that the ‘Data Controller’, in this context their employer, holds on them. The request does not have to be made in any specific way or use particular wording. Some employees might even use the wrong terminology by asking for a ‘Freedom of Information request’ (a general right of access to information held by public authorities). This doesn’t matter - if they want access to their personal data then it should be dealt with as a SAR.

Timeframe to respond

Such a request must be responded to without delay, and at the latest within one month of receipt. However, if it is complex or numerous you may be able to extend it by a further two months, meaning that you have a total of three months. You will just need to let the employee know before the end of the first month and explain why you need the extension.

If the request is vague or the employee says that they want access to “all personal data relating to me”, you could ask them to clarify what it is that they want, particularly where you process a large amount of data. Importantly, the clock is stopped whilst you wait for a response.

Employees often submit a SAR because there is an ongoing employment issue or dispute, and they are trying to fish for information. Whilst they don’t have to explain why they are making a SAR, if the employee indicates that they will withdraw their SAR if you provide them with some sort of benefit, you may be able to class their request as ‘manifestly unfounded’ and refuse to deal with it. This is because they have no intention to exercise their rights of access.

Visit BrAInbox today for instant answers to questions like, Does an employee have to provide ID when making a subject access request?

Format of response

Remember that it is only their own personal data that they are entitled to which is information that identifies and relates to them. This could mean that their fishing expedition is not as successful as they were hoping. When providing the personal data, you could give them a copy of the document itself, with any necessary redactions, however, there is another option. The right permits individuals to see their personal data, but not to a copy of the documentation itself. Consequently, you could provide them with a spreadsheet or table and include the personal data in there; this can be a great way to protect your branded documents and other commercially sensitive data.

Does an exemption apply?

But before you respond, make sure that you check whether any of the data falls into an exemption, as this means that you don’t have to provide it. If, for example, you hold any confidential references for that employee, either that you have received or provided, then you don’t have to provide any personal data contained in the reference.

Finally, when the request is ready to go to the employee, make sure that you also provide them with information about how you process their personal data. The easiest way to do this is to give them a copy of your privacy notice, so, a useful step that you can take now is to double check that you have one for your employees.

Our commercial law firm, Irwell Law, can help you if you get a subject access request. Irwell Law are independently authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to provide you with advice and representation on a broad range of legal matters including subject access requests, commercial and civil law, all aspects of litigation, supplier issues, debt recovery and much more. As a loyal Peninsula client, you will have access to Irwell Law at significantly discounted rates. For more information, please contact Irwell Law directly: Email: info@irwell-law.com Telephone: 0800 023 2129 Website: https:/www.irwell-law.com

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