Is consent the best approach to processing employee data?

Inevitably, employers are required to process the personal data of their employees during the employment relationship. The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) provides that personal data must not be processed unless at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 of the DPA is met.

The Schedule 2 conditions which are most likely to apply in an employment context include: where the data subject has given his or her consent to processing; where processing is necessary for the performance of the employment contract; where processing is necessary for compliance with any legal obligation (other than an obligation imposed by contract); and where processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject.

Many aspects of processing employee data do not require specific consent and fall within another Schedule 2 condition. For example, providing information to HMRC to enable salaries to be paid via payroll is likely to be necessary for the performance of the employment contract…

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