The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued guidance around data protection and coronavirus, recognising the “unprecedented challenges” we face during the pandemic.

On the whole, the ICO is taking a commonsense approach. They state that measures taken should be proportionate: “if something feels excessive from the public’s point of view, then it probably is.”

Here’s a short summary of the guidance provided by the ICO on data protection and coronavirus:

  • The ICO understands that data protection standards may not be as high during this time because resources are being diverted away from compliance work. Organisations won’t be penalised if they need to adapt their usual practices.
  • Data protection laws do not prevent people working from home, which many will do during the pandemic. The same security measures should be considered for homeworking as at the workplace.
  • Staff should be informed about cases of coronavirus at your organisation. Individuals do not need to be named, however; provide no more information than is necessary.
  • There’s no need to collect significantly more health data about your employees. While you have an obligation to protect their health, you should not collect more information than you need and can take a commonsense approach to this.
  • Rather than attempting to handle things internally, a better approach may be to ask people to consider and follow government advice – for example, calling the NHS on 111 if they have visited a badly affected country or are showing symptoms of the virus.
  • It’s fine to share employee health data with the authorities if necessary – although it’s unlikely you’ll need to do so.

You can read the full guidance from the ICO here.

This is certainly a difficult time for people and organisations, but on the matter of data protection and coronavirus, it’s important to be sensible. Don’t take unnecessary measures; make sure that your response is proportionate.

If you have any more questions about this or any other subject relating to data protection, get in touch with us today and our consultants will provide all the advice you need.