Jersey: New Guidance Issued In The UK Regarding Subject Access Requests

Last Updated: 9 September 2013
Article by Colette Hunt

When an employee, or former employee, submits a subject access request ("SAR"), do you know how to respond?

Seemingly, there is much variation in the way such is handled.

A new Code of Practice ("the Code") has just been produced and published by the Information Commissioner's Office which provides the controllers and processors of personal data ("data") with a useful point of reference. It is a comprehensive guide which covers many common scenarios and includes examples in each of its sections.

As well as explaining the rights that employees have in relating to accessing their own data, the Code clarifies what a data controller must do in order to comply with their duties.

Uncertainties are to be clarified

One of the points which the Code emphasises is that a controller should be fully satisfied of the identity of the requester before any data is disclosed. Where several employees (or former employees) are employed with the same surname, or if there is more than one with the same names in your organisation, you should ask for some additional information such as date of birth or a copy of their passport or a utility bill to ensure that the correct data is provided.

If it is uncertain about what is being requested, then clarification should be sought from the requester prior to responding. However, you cannot require the requester to narrow the scope of their request.

If a written request asks for "all information you hold" about an employee, whilst they are entitled to everything about them, you can nonetheless reasonably ask them to provide information about the context in which the information may have been processed, or the likely dates created, so as to assist you when searching. Thus, if in response to an SAR, an employee has been provided with a copy of the information held in their personnel files and any files held by their line manager but complains that he has still not been provided with all information about him, you could ask the employee to say approximately when emails were sent and who sent them.

Electronic data

If the request relates to information in electronic form, then you can reasonably ask the requester for confirmation of the type of data being sought, for example, whether an application form, letter, email and when it was likely to have been created. Doing so may assist you in determining if the material has been deleted or archived (either printed off and held in a manual archive or removed from your live electronic data systems and held in an electronic archive).

The contents of an email should not be regarded as deleted merely because it has been moved to a user's "Deleted items" folder.

Non-electronic data

Whether disclosure of data contained in paper files or on microfiche records is required will depend on whether the nonelectronic records are held in a "relevant filing system" and whether enough context has been provided to be able to locate this. A relevant filing system will exist where information about individuals is held in a sufficiently systematic, structured way which allows ready access to specific information about them.

Excluded data

There is no legitimate basis for information to be excluded from a response to a SAR merely because it will be difficult to access the data or because it will be time consuming or costly to locate. Whilst there are no express limits placed on your duty to search for and retrieve the information sought, the Code does include advice on the situation where a disproportionate amount of effort would be required to obtain certain information. In the main, it states that this should only be relied on in exceptional circumstances.


Certain information may be exempt from a SAR because of its nature or because of the effect its disclosure is likely to have. Examples of exemptions include a confidential reference that you provide about an employee, information that is processed for certain purposes (for example, the prevention or detection of crime, the capture or prosecution of offenders and the assessment or collection of tax or duty), negotiations with the requester, data to which legal professional privilege applies, and data relating to management forecasting or planning (to the extent that complying with a SAR may prejudice the business or other activity of the organisation).

Thus, if the senior management of a company are planning a re-organisation which may involve making certain employees redundant, but before the plans are revealed to the staff, an employee submits a SAR. The response to the SAR does not need to include the management plan if this included making that particular employee redundant because doing so might prejudice the business, perhaps by causing unrest in advance of the announcement of the management plans. However, if the SAR was not submitted until after the plan had been revealed to staff or after the redundancies took effect, then the exemption would no longer be applicable.

If you intend to rely on an exemption, careful consideration should be given as the decision may need to be defended subsequently. The Code therefore suggests that it is good practice to ensure that such a decision is taken at a suitably senior level and also that the reason(s) for applying it are recorded.


There are also some restrictions on what should be disclosed in response to a SAR, for example, where this would involve disclosure of information about a third party.

A fairly common occurrence involves the contents of a human resources file of an employee including information which identifies managers and colleagues who have contributed to the file. To be able to deal with a SAR covering this, you will need to reconcile the right of access of the requester with the need to preserve the confidentiality of the third parties.

Confidentiality is a factor which must be taken into account when deciding to disclose information about a third party without their consent. There may also be occasions where you decide that it is reasonable in all the circumstances to disclose it without seeking their specific consent, such as where the information is already known to the requester. In other instances, it may be not be practicable to obtain the consent of a third party, for example, if they cannot be located. Special rules apply to certain material, such as the disclosure of health, educational and social-work records.

What form should disclosure take?

The Code also addresses the form in which the data is supplied. Providing it in a permanent form usually involves the requester being given a photocopy or printout of their data but the Code states that there is no obligation to provide copies of original documents.

Information can also be provided in the form of a transcript of relevant documents, or of sections of documents, containing the data. The Code also points out that a SAR also entitles the requester to be told whether any of their data is being processed and if so, to be given a description of the data, the reasons it is being processed, whether it will be given to other organisations or people (in general terms), and the source of the data (if known).

If a file or document contains a mixture of information - some data about the requester, and of third parties and some material that is not data at all, you will need to consider each document, or part thereof, to assess the matter. In practice, it is often easier and least time consuming to simply provide the requester with all of the file or document. This can be appropriate where none of the information is particularly sensitive or contentious or does not refer to any third parties.

Automated decisions and other key Points

Another point to be borne in mind is that the requester is entitled to ask for an explanation of the reasoning behind any automated decision taken about him or her, and cites an example of this as an assessment of their performance at work (as long as this could not be considered to be a trade secret). If a requester submits a SAR on more than one occasion, then you must consider if there is any new data in existence since the previous response was provided. If there is no new data, then the requester should be informed that their records have not changed since the previous response was provided to them.

There are many other useful points made within the Code, so as and when you next have a query on a data protection issue, it is worth looking at this, as well as possibly contacting your island's office of the Data Commissioner, and/or asking a member of our employment team in either island.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.