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ICO reassures employers they can share staff data in a mental health emergency

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published new guidance to give employers more certainty about sharing their workers’ personal details in a mental health emergency.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published new guidance to give employers more certainty about sharing their workers’ personal details in a mental health emergency.

The guidance provides advice on when and how it is appropriate to share workers’ information when the employer believes that someone is at risk of causing serious harm to themselves, or others, because of their mental health.

Employers should focus on sharing information with the right people to protect the person involved or others from serious harm – even if they have not planned ahead.

Employers will not get in trouble for sharing necessary and proportionate information with relevant and appropriate emergency services or health professionals that can help mitigate the risk of serious harm to the worker or to others.

Employers could also share necessary and proportionate information with a worker’s next of kin or emergency contact.

In many situations, people listed in employee records as next of kin or emergency contacts are essential in providing support to a person at risk of harming themselves or others.

However, employers will not necessarily always know the exact nature of the relationship with the next of kin or emergency contact. Depending on the nature of the mental health emergency, and the relationship with that next of kin or emergency contact, it might be inappropriate to share all the information held with them.

Employers need to use their judgement in each specific situation, sharing only what is necessary and proportionate to the circumstances.

Employers should also consider whether the ability to share health information is subject to other legal constraints outside of data protection law. For health information, this may include any duty of confidence that may apply, particularly where workers may expect confidentiality.

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