Protecting privacy at work

Keeping secrets is a business skill that is to be encouraged when it comes to looking after personal information about clients and staff members.

To improve New Zealander’s awareness of information issues there is a Privacy Week initiative from May 13 to 18, 2019.

All businesses should consider their policies and practices, as well as take time to understand the implications of protecting or breaching privacy.

The New Zealand Privacy Act 1993 controls how agencies, businesses and organisations collect, store and give access to personal information and there are codes of practice that apply to specific areas, including health, telecommunications and credit reporting.

At BUSINESS buddy we take privacy very seriously, especially as we manage the business, financial and accountancy information of our clients.

Here are some basics all businesses should consider when reviewing how they manage privacy.

1. Get privacy policy right from the start

All businesses should have a privacy policy that all staff are aware of and understand.

Even if you are a sole operator you need to be aware of privacy rights and responsibilities of your clients, and yourself when dealing with suppliers and stakeholders.

2. Have privacy safety nets

Systems should be robust enough to ensure personal information is secure.

Digital systems must be protected with good passwords and some systems allow different staff members to have varying degrees of access.

And, paper systems need to be secure in locked filing cabinets. It is not ok to have employment applications left lying on a desk or on the front seat of the ute.

3. Consult with people about privacy

When you are collecting information from people give them ways to opt in or out. You need to let people know why, where and how personal information is being collected.

If you hold personal information about people, they have the right to access the information and correct it.

If you are collecting email addresses for newsletters and marketing purposes, you need to have the recipient’s permission to do this. They also must have a method of unsubscribing.

4. Have a reliable method of disposing of personal information

Paper trails of personal information need to be securely archived and if you don’t have room in your office, consider private storage facilities. Alternatively, transfer information to a secure cloud-based system.

Some paper records may need to be shredded and there are reliable disposal companies that will manage this for businesses.

Many digital systems, such as SmartPayroll, will store all data about current and former employees, ensuring businesses have good records should they receive a visit from the Labour Inspectorate.

Privacy Week may not be at the top of entrepreneurs’ to-do list but it is an important responsibility of owning and operating businesses.

There are events in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, including a call up with Upsouth in Counties Manukau, asking for young people’s views on privacy, especially in the context of social media.

This is by no means legal advice on managing privacy in your workplace and should you require more information, contact BUSINESS buddy and we will connect you with ideal consultants.