Enforcement notices served for obtaining workers’ personal data behind backs

The Information Commissioner’s Office has served enforcement notices on 14 building firms following breaches of the Data Protection Act. Some organisations paid thousands of pounds to unfairly obtain personal information about workers.

The 14 companies include leading m&e firms Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, Emcor, NG Bailey, Shepherd Engineering Services (SES) and SIAS Building Services.

David Smith, deputy information commissioner, said: “Fourteen firms paid for personal details about construction workers without those people knowing. The individuals were denied the opportunity of explaining or correcting what may have been inaccurate personal information about them and which could have jeopardised their employment prospects in the industry.

“We have used the maximum powers available to us, and this enforcement action sends a strong signal that organisations must take the Data Protection Act seriously. Should the firms fail to adhere to the terms of the notices they could face prosecution.”

The enforcement action prevents the companies from using the personal data supplied to them by Ian Kerr, formerly of The Consulting Association (TCA). The firms will also need to ensure that if they obtain personal information about job applicants from third parties in the future they are completely open with those applicants about the process. It is a breach of the Data Protection Act to use personal data covertly to vet workers for employment.

An Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) investigation found that Ian Kerr of Droitwich, on behalf of the TCA, held details on 3,213 construction workers and traded their personal details for profit.

At Kerr’s business premises the ICO seized copies of invoices to construction companies for services, including employment checks on individuals.

On 16 July Kerr was fined £5000 for breaching the Data Protection Act and ordered to pay £1187.20 costs.