Q&As

What can I do to protect confidential information in the workplace?

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Published on LexisPSL on 27/11/2013

The following Practice Compliance Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • What can I do to protect confidential information in the workplace?
  • What counts as confidential information?
  • Top seven must-haves
  • Contractual protection
  • Use a 'need to know' approach
  • Practical measures
  • Train employees
  • Carry out audits
  • Bespoke procedures and policies
  • When an employee leaves

What counts as confidential information?

Confidential information is information that is (i) confidential in nature, and (ii) disclosed in circumstances that give rise to a duty of confidentiality. In many cases it will be obvious that information is confidential, eg a client database or a business strategy. Sometimes it won't be obvious, eg oral communications at a work social event or informal email communications can constitute confidential information. Therefore, it is vital to:

  1. have a system in place to protect confidential information, and

  2. ensure employees are aware of the risks and discouraged from using information unlawfully

Top seven must-haves

Contractual protection

Many employment contracts will include provisions on confidential information. However, one size might not fit all and it is a good idea to ensure your employment contracts are suitable for different categories of employee. It is important to review confidentiality provisions regularly as employees take on different roles, new technologies emerge and the legislative framework changes.

Use a 'need to know' approach

Confidential information needs to be recorded and shared cautiously; a single employee holding all the confidential information in their head is a recipe for disaster. The smaller the pool of employees with access to confidential information the lesser the risk of disclosure, so for highly sensitive information it pays to keep that pool as small as possible. However, protection of confidentiality needs to be balanced with

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