UK: One Year On: 5 Key GDPR Issues For Employers

When the GDPR came into force, businesses were at different stages of the compliance journey, with many still working towards becoming compliant with data protection requirements. With the first anniversary of GDPR on 25 May 2019, now is a good time for employers to assess where they are in their data protection compliance plan. This note focuses on the particular data protection issues businesses have as employers, and is aimed at HR departments, employment in-house counsel, and others who gather and process personal data from an employment perspective. We have set out below 5 key GDPR issues for employers.

Data cleansing

Employers must ensure that only the minimum amount of personal data necessary for each specific purpose is processed and that it is kept no longer than necessary for the purposes for which it was processed.

Employers should be mindful that poorly managed data retention may significantly increase the burden created by subject access requests (SARs). Given that employers now have just 30 days to comply with these requests, an increased focus on retention can help ensure that:

  • the time and costs incurred dealing with SARs is no greater than necessary, and

  • SARs do not flag wider non-compliance issues in relation to unnecessary processing of personal data

Data cleansing systems must be in place to ensure that HR and all line managers etc. who process staff personal data comply with the data retention policy. All staff personal data must be securely deleted/ destroyed, or de-personalised, if there is no lawful basis for processing it.

The increased and serious sanctions for non-compliance with the GDPR (fines of up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher) mean employers must be strict about managing data retention properly. We recommend that employers audit their data cleansing practices to establish whether they are complying in practice with stated data retention periods.

Managing subject access requests

SARs are often made by disgruntled employees or ex-employees in the context of a dispute. If they believe their request has not been dealt with properly, they will generally not hesitate to report this to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Since the introduction of the GDPR, the number of complaints reported to the ICO has increased significantly. The ICO's most recently reported statistics (December 2018) show a rise in the number of complaints from 9,000 to 19,000 in a comparable six-month period.

It is important to get the SAR process right:

  • to avoid the risk of regulatory scrutiny - because if following a complaint about a failure to respond appropriately to a SAR the ICO's investigation reveals that data handling practices are not compliant, the employer potentially faces significant sanctions
  • in addition, the ICO may bring criminal proceedings against the company or its directors if steps have been taken to alter, erase, destroy or conceal data with the intention of preventing disclosure

Managing requests to remove data from your systems

Employees have the right to erasure (permanent deletion of data in relation to them) and to restrict/object to processing.

The widespread publicity around the GDPR means that people are more aware of these rights and more likely to exercise them. And, as the post-GDPR statistics above show, they are now also more likely to complain to the ICO if their request is not managed appropriately.

Complying with these requests is a challenge for many businesses. Employers must have robust processes in place on how to manage requests to remove data, and ensure that these are followed strictly. If not, a subsequent SAR could reveal that they have not complied with these requests.

Data security

Employers must keep personal data secure to protect the privacy of their staff. To reduce the risk of a data breach, it is important all staff know their data protection and security obligations.

Employers should consider reviewing and updating their security measures regularly as data breaches are becoming more commonplace and perhaps inevitable - and sanctions are potentially very significant. The ICO published figures showing a rise in the number of reported data breaches in a comparable three-month period from less than 700, to over 4,000 after the introduction of the GDPR.

Employers must notify the ICO of a data breach within 72 hours of becoming aware of it, unless it is unlikely to adversely impact on individuals' rights. If however the data breach is likely to have a significant impact on individuals' rights and freedoms, those individuals must also be notified promptly. If employers fail to meet the 72 hour deadline, they must provide reasons for this - and the ICO may increase penalties for late reporting.

So employers must have robust processes for reviewing, documenting and notifying breaches, to enable them to act quickly when they become aware of a data breach.

In addition, the decision in the class action against Morrisons Supermarkets (see our update court of appeal confirms supermarket vicariously liable for data breach) that they were vicariously liable for a data breach by a rogue employee, also sends a clear message that unless and until this decision is reversed (Morrisons is appealing this decision to the Supreme Court), employers should insure against data breach. Because even though they may have done everything reasonably possible to secure the personal data held, they may still be liable for breaches caused by rogue employees.

Demonstrating compliance to the ICO

Accountability is key to compliance with the GDPR. Employers must not only comply with the data requirements – they must also be able to demonstrate compliance if challenged by the ICO.

So throughout the design stage of any policy, process, product or service, data protection risks must be taken into account, which means:

  • Assessing and implementing appropriate and proportionate technical and organisational measures and procedures from the outset

  • Having mechanisms in place to ensure that only personal data necessary for each specific purpose is processed

  • Completing a detailed Data Privacy Impact Assessment (DPIA) when carrying out "high risk" processing, such as CCTV monitoring or processing special category sensitive data in certain circumstances (this may require consultation with the Regulator about whether risk mitigation is adequate). The DPIA process ensures that employers identify, assess and evaluate the risks to their staff from projects or data processing activities

Employers must also maintain a record of their data processing activities, which must be made available to the ICO on request. This record should include information about the purposes of processing, data retention and security measures.

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.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Practice Guides
by Mondaq Advice Centres
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions