Discrimination risk of co-workers accessing personal information

Discrimination risk of co-workers accessing personal information

  • Date: Friday 24th September 2021
  • PDF: Download

Some job roles have access to privileged information including the personal data of colleagues. A recent case highlights that inappropriate accessing of colleague data can lead to successful claims of discrimination.

In the case, Mrs Walker – an NHS worker at South Tees Hospital – successfully claimed that a colleague accessing her personal information amounted to unfavourable treatment and discrimination. Mrs Walker had announced that she was pregnant, and a sceptical work colleague decided to access her information on the patient database. The colleague claimed she was looking for Mrs Walker’s address in order to send her flowers and did not look at the medical information.

But Mrs Walker, on being told her record had been accessed, was extremely upset.

The tribunal found that every patient, including NHS workers, is entitled to expect that those with access to the patient database “respect their confidentiality and will not access data unless necessary.”

The tribunal found that the co-worker had accessed the database improperly even though she was not looking at the medical information. In a warning for all employers to their employees with access to personal information, the tribunal found that it “makes no difference” if the reason for accessing personal data is to do something nice.

The result was that the conduct amount to unfavourable treatment and discrimination.

What employers can learn from this case?

  • Reinforce to team members the dos and don’ts when accessing databases
  • Remember personal information can only be disclosed with the consent of the employee in question
  • Any attempt to bypass the system will risk a claim from the employee whose record is inappropriately accessed


Source: Gavin Parrott

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