The evolution of the Human Resource management: what are the impacts on personal data protection?

Ensuring the respect of privacy in a digital world not only requires integration into every project, but integration into every company culture. This approach will also facilitate compliance with new regulations in the respective countries.

Analytical assessment made possible thanks to the testimonies of Jean-Christophe Procot and Hervé Commerly, Human Resources experts from Wavestone. 

This blog post is a part of a series of articles which is itself the result of a synthesis on Privacy at the digital age published on our website. 

How is the concept of privacy between employees and employers perceived?

It is a concept that has changed significantly over the last few years. The privacy concerns of employers about their employees is that they often do not devote enough time to their work. For employees, the notion of privacy goes hand in hand with flexible working conditions such as flexible hours, reduced surveillance and teleworking arrangements. Employees also value a limit on the amount of information that the employer can gather about them. On the basis of this concept of privacy and to improve employee privacy, employers increasingly seek to support employees in their personal lives through well-being services such as laundry and daycare services, company restaurants and complementary insurance. However, providing such support also requires that the employer knows more and more about the private life of employees, such as the composition of their family and eating habits linked to religious beliefs.

What explains such concerns?

It should be understood that employers are increasingly interested in collecting data to improve understanding of their employees. Employees are increasingly reluctant to communicate this information, especially the younger workforces. Employers wants to retain their employees for longer, facilitate their decision-making and help them to perform more effectively and efficiently in the professional and personal lives. The employer collects such data not directly communicated by the employee themselves but from third parties, such as social networks, previous employers, managers, and data inputs from work tools. Both employees and customers are concerned by this development. It would almost say that, by definition, employees suspect employers of attempting to monitor their every move. The employee is then left to wonder how it is possible to retain control over privacy if employers collect all this information about them, not necessarily provided by the employee themselves, leaving them powerless if the employer chooses to correlate data for making decisions about an employee, unbeknown to them.

Do you have an example of a recent project which echoed such concerns?

The plan of the French government plan to introduce a tax withheld at source. An employee’s salary withheld is an example of this. The aim is to simplify an individual’s life by avoiding deferred payments which can lead to difficult situations. For example, tax collection methods for the state can be improved with a reduction in income set by the employer as an indication that an employee is no longer able to pay the tax rate of the previous year. However, citizens are quick to express concerns about the information their employer holds about them. As well as financial information, a tax return can contain additional private information such as marital status, children, ancillary income and any assistance provided to persons with difficulties. The objective should be therefore to ensure that the purpose of the data collected will be limited to tax purposes and that access to such data will be controlled. The employee wants to ensure that his or her data will not be used for any purposes other than that previously agreed to, such as modifying a salary due to learning the employee’s ancillary income.

What developments have taken place in human resources management that will impact the protection of personal data?

Several major trends have emerged:

  • Big Data in recruitment activities, particularly sourcing, which should be supervised in order to ensure legitimacy when collecting data;
  • The multiplication of decision-making for career managers (for example, the creation of succession trees or the identification of key personnel) for automated decision-making, a sensitive topic for regulators;
  • Mobility, with an increasingly frequent introduction of new professional mobile terminals which do not facilitate the separation between the data produced in private settings and data produced in professional settings. The question of the “right to disconnect” is also alluded to regularly.
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