Manal Haddad

Getting Personal with Employee Support Creates New Data Risks

Traditionally, the employer-employee relationship was often characterized by a clear separation between professional and personal spheres. However, with the growing emphasis on holistic employee well-being and due to the pandemic, companies are now delving deeper into the personal lives of their workforce. This shift is fueled by a genuine desire to create a supportive and inclusive workplace environment.

For example, before COVID-19, employers didn’t demand that employees present their complete health reports. However, to avoid spreading the virus, employees had to go through monthly health checkups and shared their vaccination status.

Data Risks in Personal Support Initiatives

As companies gather more personal information about their employees to tailor support programs effectively, the risk of mishandling sensitive data becomes a pressing concern.

Employee data, once predominantly confined to professional records, now extends into personal realms, encompassing mental health records, family details, and lifestyle choices. While well-intentioned, this expansion of data collection raises essential questions about privacy and security.

Cybersecurity Threats

The digitization of employee support programs brings the looming threat of cyberattacks. As companies store vast amounts of personal information, they become attractive targets for malicious actors seeking to exploit vulnerabilities in cybersecurity defenses. A breach could have severe consequences, not only for the affected employees but also for the company’s reputation.

Solution – The Employee Data Bill of Rights

The Employee Data Bill of Rights is a set of principles and guidelines to safeguard employees’ privacy and rights in the digital transformation era. It addresses critical areas such as data collection, consent, transparency, and the ethical use of employee data.

Every company creates its guidelines based on the type of work they do. However, the bill is set on the following four principles:

The Right to Purpose

The company will have a specific and legitimate purpose for collecting data.

Employee data should only be used for the purposes explicitly communicated to the employees during the collection process. Any deviation from the stated purpose requires additional consent. This principle prevents data misuse for unintended purposes, protecting employees from unwarranted intrusions into their personal lives.

The Right to Fairness

The company will use data to reinforce workforce equity.

Ensuring fairness in the workplace, particularly concerning the use of data, is a fundamental aspect of creating a healthy and inclusive company culture. This means treating employees equitably and avoiding any form of discrimination based on factors such as race, gender, age, or other protected characteristics.

The Right to Minimization

The company will collect minimal data to fulfill its business purpose.

This principle advocates for minimizing data collected to only what is necessary for the intended purpose. Employers should refrain from collecting excessive or irrelevant information, respect employees’ privacy, and reduce the risk of misuse.

The Right to Awareness

The company will tell its employees what data is used for which purpose.

Transparency is essential in cultivating trust between employers and employees. Employers should be transparent about their data practices, providing clear information on data collection, processing, and storage. This transparency builds trust and allows employees to make informed decisions regarding their data.

Companies must tread carefully, acknowledging and addressing the data risks associated with personalized employee support. By adopting transparent communication, minimizing data collection, and ensuring compliance with regulations, they can balance personalization and data protection, fostering a workplace environment that values individuality and privacy.

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