How much data can I gather?
You also need to consider other aspects of data protection.
Be proportionate – only gather and use Covid-19 data where you need to.
Keep data to a minimum – you shouldn’t gather more data than you need. You need to know someone has Covid-19 but you don’t need to know all their symptoms. Data minimisation also applies to who gets access to the data. It’s unlikely that a spreadsheet, accessible to everyone updating them on the health status of all employees, would be appropriate. Data should be shared on a need to know basis. You need to balance the privacy of individuals against your duty of care to be responsible with regards to the data of your employees, visitors, customers and suppliers.
Keep it up to date – make sure you update data. People’s health status will change and if you keep a record of this, you need to make sure it is accurate and up to date (although this doesn’t mean you should batter individuals with constant requests for updates on health status. Again, be proportionate).
Identify individuals only when you need to – although you will need to know who has Covid-19, that doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone in the organisation. As soon as you can, you should remove personal data from any information you gather. For example, you might want to update employees on the health status of their fellow employees but you probably don’t need to name individuals and even if you feel it is necessary, you should keep the information you provide to a minimum. Removing personal identifiers in a document is also a good data security technique.
Keep the Covid-19 health data secure – Covid-19 data will be special category data and deemed high risk. This means that if you have a breach of this data you will need to notify it to the ICO. A breach could happen by someone losing a print-out of the names of Covid-19 employees, customers or visitors. It could also happen if you set access rights to lists of Covid-19 sufferers open to more people than need to know the information. The risk of ICO enforcement action increases with the potential harm the disclosure could cause. Although the ICO has indicated that it will be understanding about the impact of Covid-19 on normal operations, this doesn’t mean that they will not prosecute you if the breach is sufficiently serious.
Destroy the data once you don’t need it – Finally, of course, make sure that you delete data at the end of your needs. This might last longer than the pandemic, for example if you have an insurance claim or ongoing litigation. If you do need to keep it, consider whether or not you can delete some of the data to minimise what you hold.
Funding audits are being paused and no new audits will be commenced during the lockdown period.
Employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from the coronavirus can continue to be furloughed. For example, employees that need to look after children can be furloughed, as you have previously submitted a claim for them in relation to a furlough period of at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June.
As more people return to work, there is an increased chance of more parents having childcare issues until Schools are fully open. However, they can’t be placed on furlough unless they had been on it before. So it would likely be unpaid leave, unless the government amends the scheme to grant an exemption.
Most rent suspension clauses in commercial property leases are unlikely to come to the assistance of the tenant. These clauses normally apply only where the premises has suffered substantial physical damage and are, as a consequence, incapable of being occupied, used or accessed. The coronavirus pandemic does not involve any physical damage to a property, loss from the crisis will be purely financial. Such losses then will not be covered by the landlord’s buildings insurance policy in a way that will allow a tenant to claim rent suspension.
Charities can also take advantage of the existing measures the Government has already put in place including deferring their VAT bills, paying no business rates for their shops next year and furloughing staff where possible with the Government paying 80% of their wages under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – see our People and Employment FAQ’s and our Premise and Property FAQ’s.
The change in the law has the potential to place much greater financial risks on suppliers, making it more difficult to exit a contract with a customer of doubtful solvency. This will place increased emphasis on appropriate financial due diligence and credit checking before entering into supply contracts.
In addition to the obvious issues around financial risk, suppliers will also need to think carefully about how their contracts are drafted. For example, any form of right that is drafted so as to be triggered on customer insolvency will clearly be problematic. These could include:
- Retention of Title provisions, which are commonly drafted so that the right to enter premises and retake possession of the goods is triggered on insolvency;
- Provisions for brand protection, which seek to control how goods are dealt with on termination of the contract.
This is potentially a very significant development for many businesses. We would strongly recommend specialist advice be obtained so that:
- businesses understand the potential increased risks faced; and
- where possible, contracts are updated so that appropriate protections are maintained.