The World of Work by Harry Sherrard

Weaponization of Subject Access Requests

It is now the rule rather than the exception for claimants to make a subject access request alongside their tribunal claim. Subject access requests are not new, but the GDPR legislation heightened awareness and has led to a significant increase in requests being received by employers. Part of the tribunal claims process is the disclosure stage, and employees generally will receive documents relevant to their claim through that process. In many cases therefore the parallel subject access request is, rather than the employee genuinely wanting to obtain data about themselves, designed to put pressure on to the employer to settle. And it can be an effective weapon because, particularly for longstanding employees with a lot of data, the employer is put to very significant expense and inconvenience in complying. And that is against a backdrop of concern about sanctions from the Information Commissioner if the employer gets it wrong.

However, limitations can be put on the scope of subject access requests. If the request is “manifestly excessive” the employer can limit the scope of the request or indeed refuse to comply entirely. Employers can respond to a very widely worded subject access request by asking for clarification,  in order to establish  if the data requested should be limited to a particular issue. By way of example, a client recently received a very wide-ranging subject access request from an employee with nearly 10 years’ service. It appeared the issue was a recent restructure and its effect on that employee. The employer successfully limited the scope of a subject access request by having the employee clarify that the restructure was the issue, and only data about that was being requested.

The Information Commissioner recently published useful guidance which can be accessed here: 

We recently ran a very well received webinar on employee subject access requests. Attendees noted “the session was really clear and concise while covering everything that’s needed” and “thank you Harry for a really useful webinar, wish I had this before doing my request as it would have saved us weeks of work.”

If you missed the session, a recording of the webinar and the slides can be purchased for £25 + VAT. For further information on any of the topics detailed in this blog or to purchase the webinar recording please email or call the office on 01273 834120 to talk to a member of the team.  

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