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The HR Guide to Employee Data Protection

The HR Guide to Employee Data Protection
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It's no secret that HR professionals have a wide range of important responsibilities. They're tasked with managing disciplinary and grievance procedures, handling payroll, as well as actively managing and overseeing the company's recruitment and resourcing strategies. 

However, one of their most important tasks is to protect both company and employee data from a multitude of potential threats, from company negligence to cybersecurity breaches. If they fail to do so, an identity theft lawyer could have a big clean up job on their hands.

This article brings you the HR guide to employee data protection and what an HR professional needs to do to comply with data protection laws and compliance regulations. Let's get into it.


GDPR: An overview of HR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a relatively new EU data privacy regulation that came into effect on May 25, 2018. The reason for its inception is due to the fact that companies are now gathering data at an exponential rate, from both consumer and employee aspects. 

The more data a company holds, the more likely it is to become the target of hackers and cyber thieves trying to obtain information for nefarious activities such as computer crimes and fraud.

When you think about it, HR departments have access to a lot of sensitive employee information, such as their name, social security number, address, date of birth, previous addresses, and so on. It's a virtual gold mine for hackers and cybercriminals. 

However, the risk doesn't just fall on the shoulders of the employee. Here are some of the ways businesses can suffer from data leaks:

  • A significant loss of reputation

  • Damage to employee trust

  • Damage to customer trust

  • Litigation costs

  • Costs from malware attacks

  • Fines and penalties

GDPR aims to protect the employee's personal data by setting out guidelines and regulations that companies must adhere to if they are to remain compliant. Otherwise, they could be liable to face punishment in the form of fines and penalties.

GDPR: An overview of HR

What HR needs to do to comply with employee Data Protection

There are numerous amounts of information and regulations that HR professionals must keep up with in order to keep up with the new GDPR and employee data protection rules. Here are some of the main tasks HR needs to address:

  • Recognize and prevent cybersecurity attacks. This means choosing the right cloud services that have data protection as a priority.

  • Update and review privacy policies for all staff

  • Always document the reason for the need to process personal information. 

  • Making sure employees understand their rights, particularly their right to access, rectify, and erase their own data if they wish

  • Make sure that the only people that have access to personal information are the ones who require it.

  • Adhere to timely document deletion. A company can only hold onto its data for a predetermined amount of time, especially if it is not necessary for business practices.

  • Consider whether the company's employee monitoring is acceptable/necessary (such as email monitoring and CCTV)


Common misconceptions of Data Protection

The digital landscape is constantly changing, and as we continue to propel forward into an age designed around data and information, it becomes increasingly challenging to keep up with regulations.

With that being said, there are still plenty of misconceptions when it comes to employee data protection and GDPR laws. Let's take a look at some of the most common misunderstandings:

  • The company does not have to notify employees when processing their personal data

This is somewhat of a gray area and is a difficult one to navigate for HR employees. There are instances where employers do not have to notify employees when processing their data. This is usually when there are valid legal grounds for doing so. However, there are times when it's necessary to notify employees when their personal data is processed, such as when they are added to an employee directory app. The long and short of it is, it depends.

  • The employer can freely monitor employees work

Employers are not free to monitor all of their employees' work if it breaches GDPR rules. Things such as email monitoring, CCTV, and other surveillance are considered personal data, and the standard rules apply.

  • GDPR is an EU law and therefore does not apply to the USA

GDPR applies to the USA and all other nations. Article 3 clearly states that GDPR applies to companies in the EU/EEA and companies outside of this that track EU/EEA residents' data. Simply put, if you have any employees who reside in these areas, even if they are freelancers, then GDPR applies.

  • Breaches of regulations will automatically result in penalties

Breaches of regulations are considered on a case-by-case basis. The penalty for such instances will be decided based upon based on the severity of the breach, the implications on the victims, and the reasons for the breach in the first place. If data was leaked due to the company's negligence, they will likely face fines and penalties as a result.Common misconceptions of Data Protection


Overall, as the employee and consumer information gathering is rapidly increasing in the company’s practices, there should also be definite procedures protecting the sensitive data. The list of HR Professionals’ responsibilities is also growing and nowadays they have to undertake certain actions in order to keep everything in a safe place. We hope that this guide assists you in your security practices. 

About Author: This article is written by a marketing team member at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of proven HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee communications & engagement, and rewards & recognition. Our user-friendly software  increases employee productivity, delivers time and cost savings, and minimizes compliance risk.

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