Kathryn Heath

Data protection and employment law specialists from a leading Cornish law firm are urging employers introducing temperature testing of employers and customers to ensure they adhere to privacy legislation.

Experts from Stephens Scown LLP are urging businesses to document their decision-making processes in order to comply with the accountability obligations under data protection legislation, the GDPR.

“Employee monitoring and processing of health information has always been a tricky area which requires careful consideration. The coronavirus pandemic means that new systems which impact on privacy may be justified,” said Kathryn Heath, senior associate and specialist in data protection at Stephens Scown.

“However, it is important that businesses do not make snap decisions and consider data protection issues in the normal way. This means documenting their decision-making process and carrying out a Privacy Impact Assessment, which considers the lawful basis for processing the information about an employee’s health.”

“Businesses also need to consider where the data collected will be stored and for how long and ensure a policy is in place for this.”

Monitoring the temperature of employees also raises employment law issues.

Verity Slater, partner and employment law specialist at Stephens Scown, said: “It is sensible for employers to think about what they will do if an employee has a high temperature or positive Covid-19 result. Clearly you may need to ask them to self-isolate, but be clear about what you will pay them during this time, and who that data will be shared with.

“Employers also need to consider how to handle an employee refusing to take the tests. This can be a tricky matter, especially if other staff feel unsafe as a result. It is important to have your HR processes ready to deal with this situation.”

Stephens Scown is keeping its Covid-19 insights hub up to date with useful information for individuals and businesses dealing with the legal implications of the coronavirus pandemic.