Privacy Commission urges employee records review

Federal Privacy Commissioner Malcolm Crompton has released a discussion paper on information privacy and employee records that will have widespread implications for the IT department.

Crompton said the paper, jointly prepared by the Attorney General's department and Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, will raise debate about the need to protect employee records, which are not covered by the current Privacy Act.

Since 21 December 2001, he said, the Office has received 2140 phone enquiries (around 3.4 percent of total calls) about the employee records exemption.

"During that time we have had to decline 45 complaints because of the employee records exemption," Crompton said.

"Employee records often contain sensitive information such as sick leave and wage records and it is important that we get the privacy balance right in this area.

"The Office will examine the paper closely and will make a submission on the discussion paper; I strongly encourage everybody with an interest in this area to do the same."

The Government announced in November 2000, before the private sector amendments to the Privacy Act were finally passed by Parliament, that it would review existing Commonwealth, State and Territory Laws to consider the extent of the privacy protection for employee records and whether there was a need for further measures.

At that time the government expressed the view that while employee records are deserving of privacy protection, such protection is more properly a matter for workplace relations legislation.

Submissions close on April 16 and any changes to the legislation will have implications for business processes and how records are maintained by the IT department.

- with Staff Writers

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