There are many instances in which an employee enjoys the right to confidentiality at work. This right will manifest either as a professional decision of manager or worker in the organisation or as a right provided by law. Employees should know their rights whenever they have personal information to safeguard in the workplace.
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Safeguard Personnel Records
One of the most important things to protect is the basic function of safeguarding personnel records. Employee personally identifiable information, including name, date of birth, place of birth, Social Security number, spouse and children information, home address, and telephone number, may be contained in a personnel file, especially if an employee enrols in group health and life insurance benefits. Therefore, these records must be secured in paper and electronic format and only authorised personnel should access the information or release it with signed consent.
It also is important to protect employee confidentiality when employees seek an appeal to a disciplinary action. Some employers approach this problem by using volunteers inside the company to serve on a peer review panel. Employee confidentiality is protected by each peer's signature on a confidentiality agreement. In this type of system, employees get a chance to review their disciplinary decisions without worrying about their confidentiality being compromised.
Employees also might have concerns about belonging to a workplace culture in which their confidential health information is shared without their permission or with permission but with negative consequences. For example, an employee who has HIV but doesn't want to be treated differently by other workers who have fear or other stigmas associated with the condition may not want the information shared. Employers must develop ways to protect employee health information such as HIV status in a safe and harassment-free workplace.
Employee confidentiality also is required when an employee makes a complaint about harassment in the workplace. For example, a male or female worker may follow the policy and procedures established by the organisation to file a complaint against a superior for sexual harassment. This information must be handled confidentially during and after an investigation of the complaint. If an employee's identity is revealed, he could become a victim of gossip and other negative workplace behaviours, presenting an unfair working environment.
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