Recent Australian privacy reforms will significantly affect offshore share incentives for Australian employees

By Alec Christie

The changes to the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), including the introduction of the new Australian Privacy Principles (APPs), significantly increase the obligations imposed on an offshore parent or related entity that collects or deals with personal information from Australian residents (i.e. employees) in connection with managing employee share incentive plans.

When the reforms become effective on 12 March 2014, many of the current practices of overseas entities that offer Australian employees the ability to participate in plans will not, for information collected from 12 March 2014, be compliant with Australian privacy law and will need to be changed.

From 12 March 2014, the functions and powers of the privacy commissioner (the relevant government regulator) are significantly enhanced; the existing National Privacy Principles (NPPs), currently applicable to the private sector, are replaced with the new APPs, which are applicable to both the public and private sectors; and, for the first time in Australia, significant monetary penalties for both serious and repeated invasions of privacy (i.e. breaches of the Privacy Act/APPs) are available…

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