|Author (Person)||Shelley, John|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.31, 2.8.01, p4|
SOCIAL Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou wants new measures to govern the way employers collect and keep sensitive information about their staff.
She fears that existing data protection laws do not sufficiently safeguard the privacy of employees who are often obliged to hand over personal details to their bosses.
The Greek commissioner wants to monitor what information employers are allowed to request and keep in relation to medical and drugs tests, and what will happen if genetic testing of employees becomes commonplace. "The Commission believes that at present workers and prospective workers may not have sufficient protection of their fundamental rights in relation to protection of their personal data," she says in a consultation paper.
As a first step Diamantopoulou has asked the EU's four 'social partners' - the European Trade Union Confederation ETUC, employers' federation UNICE, small business group UEAPME and CEEP, which represents state-owned firms - to consider drawing up rules on protection of workers' personal data.
The EU already has data protection legislation, but Diamantopoulou is concerned that it lacks details on how information is handled in the workplace. The existing rules are based on the premise that if someone consents to have personal data passed on then it should be allowed.
But Diamantopoulou argues: "A worker or prospective worker is often in the position where it is not possible to refuse, withdraw or modify consent due to the employer's position of power, and the worker's fear of loss of promotion, prospects or job offer."
Data protection laws vary widely between member states - especially where medical tests are concerned. Employers in some countries, for instance, can only be informed whether a worker is fit for a job or not, while the details remain confidential.
Similarly, while Austria, Portugal and the Netherlands restrict the use of data resulting from genetic testing, other EU nations have no rules covering this area.
Trade unions are expected to back tougher regulation, but businesses are likely to be less enthusiastic.
Thérèse de Liedekerke, social affairs director for UNICE, said there were already adequate national laws, covering, for example, the way firms handle medical information. But she said negotiations involving the social partners were a possibility. "We will examine the paper with an open mind," she said. "With regard to protection of personal data there are a number of rules which already exist, if the Commission sees certain loopholes then we will examine them together."
Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou wants new measures to govern the way employers collect and keep sensitive information about their staff.
|Subject Categories||Employment and Social Affairs, Internal Markets|