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Disciplinary, discrimination & data protection

See the latest employment law updates.

Disciplinary investigations: an employee's choice of companion

Earlier this year, Acas amended its non-statutory guidance to make it clear that businesses can allow workers to be accompanied to a disciplinary hearing by companions who are not trade union representatives or work colleagues. It did not amend the Code as it did not wish to create a burden on employers, but clearly employers will always be in a position to exercise their discretion when deciding who to allow as a companion.

The High Court has recently held that a university's refusal to allow a representative of a professional defence organisation to accompany an employee at an investigation meeting concerning serious allegations of misconduct was unfair and a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. Employers should be aware of the potential seriousness of allowing employees to attend hearings unaccompanied, especially where the stakes are high and the matters under discussion are complex or technical.

A business should consider the key issues when conducting a disciplinary procedure connected with misconduct or poor performance.

Data protection: ICO fines company for data breach

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has fined a nationwide money lender £180,000 for failing to keep customers' personal information secure. The fine illustrates, once again, the importance for businesses of being aware of their obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998.

In this case, one server was stolen from a company office and a second server was lost while being transported from the firm's head office to a branch. Both servers held customer records and records relating to the company's employees. The ICO found that the company did not encrypt the personal data held on its servers. In addition, some of its branches did not have a "safe haven" (in which to lock a server holding personal data overnight) or alternative physical security measures. The ICO considered that the loss of unencrypted personal data could cause distress and damage to the company's customers if, for example, it was used for fraudulent purposes.

This highlights the key legal obligations that a business should consider when dealing with personal data about customers, suppliers, employees or any other individual who may be encountered during the course of business.

Discrimination in the workplace: new equality and diversity guides

Acas has indicated that, in the last 12 months, it has dealt with over 50,000 calls to its helpline on discrimination and diversity issues in the workplace, which amounts to 5.5% of all calls. In response, it has published three new guides that aim to help employers identify, tackle and prevent discrimination in the workplace.

There are different types of discrimination that can occur within the workplace and businesses can take practical steps to help avoid breaching discrimination and harassment law.

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Employment Law - for employers

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