HR briefing - August 2022

31 August 2022

Welcome to this month's briefing for HR teams and in-house employment counsel – bringing you this month’s employment law highlights in an easy-to-read package.

Data privacy

Employers are familiar with the need to identify lawful reasons for processing personal data. Less well known is that s170 of the Data Protection Act 2018 can create criminal liability for individuals if they access personal data without proper reason. In a recent prosecution, a health adviser accessed the medical details of patients without good reason, and without his employer’s knowledge. Employers are obliged to put in place adequate security mechanisms to minimise the risk of unauthorised access of employee data, and should ensure their data policies make it clear to employees with access rights that they must only process data where necessary for their role.

Positive action

We are often asked whether UK employment law allows clients to give preferential treatment to candidates from under-represented groups; typically women, ethnic minorities, or those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. The answer is a qualified yes. The Equality Act permits two types of positive action: (i) a general ability to take proportionate steps to address low participation in a particular field, minimise a particular disadvantage, or meet a particular need; and (ii) a specific ability to give preference in recruitment or promotion decisions where two candidates are equally qualified for a role. Clients contemplating making use of either or these abilities – for instance by setting up an internship only open to a restricted group of candidates – should seek specific advice as the legislation contains a number of pitfalls for the unwary. Guidance can be found from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Government Equalities Office.

CV fraud

In a recent case, an employee obtained three senior management roles within the NHS based on a CV in which he falsely claimed to have qualifications and experience that were entirely invented. The truth eventually came out, and he was prosecuted and convicted for fraud. The Supreme Court then had to consider what portion of his earnings from those roles ought to be repaid under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Read our client note on this interesting case.

Home Office resumes priority processing for visa applications

On Friday 12 August, the Home Office announced that after a four month hiatus, the option to pay for priority processing would be reinstated. This is welcome news for employers and applicants.

Priority processing is usually available for an additional fee of £150-200 upon submission and generally reduces the processing time from three to six weeks to one to two weeks.

Some applications (visitors and applications filed in the US) also have super priority options which generally means the application is decided within 48 hours.

Priority processing is now available for most visa applications filed outside of the UK including Skilled Worker, Global Business Mobility (the new name for Intra-Company Transfer) and Family routes.

Read our client note with further details on priority processing.