Those of you who have been subject to employment claims of late will know that it is a standard practice of those representing claimants to issue Subject Access Requests. The requests are usually made at an early stage in the proceedings, the aim being to obtain information about the claimant held by the employer and which may not naturally be disclosed as part of the Tribunal disclosure process. Dealing with such claims can be quite a burden for employers. First Choice Selection Services were faced with just such a request. The company took the view that it would not respond to the request and would not provide documentation unless the Tribunal ordered it to. The Claimant complained to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). The ICO pursued correspondence with First Choice which didn’t help itself by giving the impression that the Tribunal had ordered it not to disclose information to the Claimant without a specific order from the Tribunal. The ICO has issued an enforcement order requiring First Choice to properly respond to the Subject Access Request and to change its internal systems, policies and procedures to ensure it identifies and responds properly to future requests.
It is clear to employers facing a Subject Access Request in these types of circumstances that however much of a burden it is there is a requirement to answer it. If the request is too wide and generic, such as ‘every email sent to me for anyone’ then you could state that the request is unreasonable, but just to ignore it is likely to cause you a bigger headache in the long run.