Who Has More Privacy Rights – Job Applicants or Employees?

Although it’s easy to assume once you have landed your dream job and are employed that you’re safest when it comes to privacy rights, this isn’t the case. Ironically, it’s job applicants who have more protection of personal information than employees.

As a result of the amendments to the Privacy Act last year, it is particularly important for businesses to understand their privacy obligations in all circumstances. Any misunderstandings can be extremely costly, with penalties of up to $1.7 million for breaching this legislation.

The Privacy Act regulates the handling of personal information about individuals. This includes the collection, use, storage and disclosure of personal information.

Employee Records Exemption

The ‘Employee Records Exemption’ in the Privacy Act is behind job applicants having additional privacy rights than employees.

This exemption effectively means that employers are not subject to the collection, use, storage and disclosure of personal information obligations relating to the employment of an employee. For example, this includes an employee’s terms and conditions of employment and personal contact details.

What Makes Job Applicants Safe?

The ‘Employee Records Exemption’ does not apply to job applicants. Further, it doesn’t apply when a business is dealing with personal information relating to independent contractors, individuals working in the employer’s business who are employed by a third party employer and to volunteers.

In such circumstances, businesses must take reasonable steps to ensure that the privacy policy is available to all of these individuals.

How Else Can Employers Ensure Compliance?

Following an up-to-date privacy policy is the first step. In addition, employers can make sure that they remain compliant by:

  • Reviewing and updating contracts: Ensure privacy clauses comply with the Privacy Act.
  • Developing and implementing internal staff guidelines: These can be used to explain to employees how they are to handle any personal information when completing their day-to-day duties.
  • Training staff: Ensure managers and human resources workers are trained to deal with personal information in accordance with the Privacy Act. This is especially important when in relation to job applicants and other individuals who don’t fall under the ‘Employee Records Exemption’.