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Confidentiality and disclosure

Data Protection Act 1988

Staff should be aware that they have obligations under the Data Protection Act 1988 relating to confidential and appropriate handling of 'sensitive personal data', which includes data about a person’s health.

Making adjustments and confidentiality

The following information is taken from the former Disability Rights Commission’s Code of Practice on Employment and Occupation (2004):

"Sometimes a reasonable adjustment will not work without the co-operation of other employees. In order to secure such co-operation, it may be necessary for the employer to tell one or more of a disabled person’s colleagues (in confidence) about a disability which is not obvious."

This may be limited to the disabled person’s supervisor, or it may be appropriate to involve other colleagues, depending on the nature of the disability and the reason they need to know about it. In any event, an employer must not disclose confidential details about an employee without his consent. A disabled person’s refusal to give such consent may impact upon the effectiveness of the adjustments which the employer is able to make or its ability to make adjustments at all.

In order for a person with epilepsy to work safely in a particular factory, it may be necessary to advise fellow workers about how they can assist the disabled worker to manage her condition.

An office worker with cancer says that he does not want colleagues to know of his condition. As an adjustment he needs extra time away from work to receive treatment and to rest. Neither his colleagues nor the line manager need to be told the precise reasons for the extra leave but the latter will need to know that the adjustment is required in order to implement it effectively”.

DSO and Confidentiality

All members of staff who decide to register with the DSO for support are asked to sign a confidentiality form, which the Disability Adviser (staff) talks through with them.  This allows them to control the information that we pass on to other people.  They are advised that if they limit confidentiality too much, it can be difficult for the University to make adjustments in work.

This confidentiality form only permits the release of information by the DSO.  Therefore you should not share the fact that an individual is registered with the DSO or any other details about their disability or health condition with any other person (including colleagues and members of your team), without discussing this with the individual first and gaining their explicit consent.