Privacy for Employees and Job Applicants

22 Jul 12

The Privacy Principles generally require an employer to tell an employee, or a prospective employee, what information is being collected from or about them and why.


There is a useful exception if telling the employee would prejudice the purposes of collecting the information, for example if the employer has reasonable grounds to suspect misconduct by the employee but needs to gather evidence.  In that sort of situation covert surveillance by some means may be appropriate.

Surveillance methods are no longer limited to following someone or installing a CCTV.  Also available are:

  • GPS device to track vehicle movements;
  • Apps to track a smartphone carried by an employee; and
  • Software to register an employee’s computer strokes.

Surveillance by whatever means needs to be for the shortest period of time necessary to gather the information.  The choice of method, and how and when it is used, also need to avoid or minimise the collection of irrelevant information which may be highly confidential to an employee, for example a computer password, or what they do outside work time.

Job Applicants

Employers should only ask applicants for information which is relevant to the job applied for.  A credit check is not relevant to an application for a retail assistant position because there is no significant financial risk to the employer.

Employers should not simply require applicants to sign a blanket consent to the employer making any enquiries about the applicant from other organisations.  The employer needs to tell applicants which organisations will be contacted, what information will be asked for, at what stage of the recruitment process those enquiries will be made, and how the information will be used.

Prepared by Lesley Brook