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Canada: OPC publishes guide on privacy in the workplace, provides practical tips for employers

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) announced, on May 29, 2023, the publication of a guide outlining key privacy considerations for employers subject to federal privacy legislation. In particular, the guide highlights that employers should take into account how the Privacy Act 1985 (the Privacy Act) and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act 2000 (PIPEDA) apply, respectively, to employee information in federal government institutions and to employee information in federal works, undertakings, and businesses.

Key privacy considerations outlined in the guide include:

  • employers are generally required to obtain meaningful consent for the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information unless an exception to consent applies;
  • even in cases where consent for the collection, use, or disclosure of employee information is not required by law, the employer may still be required to be transparent, provide employees with meaningful notice, and outline their practices in organizational policies;
  • employers must limit access to employee information on a need-to-know basis; and
  • employers should have policies and procedures regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of employees' personal information.

On the topic of employee monitoring, the guide notes that monitoring measures should consider the privacy risks and adopt mitigating measures, such as limiting collection to only that which is necessary for the stated purpose. Employers should also ensure that the least privacy-invasive measure in the circumstances is used. In any case, the guide highlights that transparency about employee monitoring is fundamental, specifying that employers must make employees aware of the purpose, nature, extent, and reasons for monitoring.

Lastly, the guide provides eight practical tips that employers can use as a starting point to build their policies and procedures.

You can read the announcement here and the guide here.