Sometimes employers will receive requests for information on their employees from government agencies such as the Job Centre Plus.

Do employers have to respond to the requests? 

Yes. In terms of the Job Centre Plus, for example, there is a legal obligation for an employer to provide information requested from a Job Seekers Plus Authorised Officer. An Authorised Officer can make a request for specified information under the Social Security Administration Act 1992. It is an offence to intentionally delay, obstruct, refuse or neglect to answer any questions from, or provide any information requested by them.

The DWP booklet “Obtaining information from employers, contractors, the self-employed, pension schemes and licensing authorities” is a useful guide as to the powers of an Authorised Officer and what to expect.

What about data protection?

Under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), employers must still comply with their data protection obligations when processing such requests. Thus they must, for example, show they have a fair and lawful reason to process the information. In this scenario the lawful basis for processing is likely to be complying with a legal obligation.

In the case of sensitive personal data (such as details of the employee’s health), employers should also take care to ensure that they comply with their enhanced GDPR responsibilities in this regard. They will therefore need to show that not only is there a fair basis for processing but also that they satisfy an additional enhanced condition necessary for processing, such as the explicit consent of the employee for example.

Other agencies/departments

Although we have referred to the Job Centre Plus in this blog, similar rules will apply to requests for data from other government agencies/departments such as HMRC etc. If in doubt, an employer should seek advice.

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