Confidentiality

The University is committed to attracting, growing and engaging with talented people from diverse backgrounds at every level. As part of this commitment the University recognises the importance of inclusivity within the University community, to ensure that all can flourish and reach their full potential.

It is important to promote and encourage an open culture where colleagues feel able to disclose their disability.

Health data is classified as a special category of personal data under Article 9 of the General Data Protection Regulations. If an individual chooses to disclose their disability, it is essential that this information is:

  • treated with sensitivity;
  • held in strictest confidence;
  • not disclosed or spoken about with anyone else until you have agreed with the individual what information can be disclosed and to whom it may be disclosed to.

In some cases, where a staff member has not formally advised of their disability (e.g. via a Workplace Health & Wellbeing management report or a conversation with their manager), an employer may be reasonably expected to know that the member of staff had a disability.    As such a manager should do all they reasonably can to find out if the staff member has a disability.  

For example: The sudden deterioration in the worker’s time-keeping, performance and/or a change in a staff member's behaviour at work should alert a manager to the possibility that these may be connected to a disability. It is likely to be reasonable to expect the manager to explore with the staff member the reason for these changes and whether the difficulties are because of something arising in consequence of a disability.

What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of the case, however, when making an enquiry about disability, managers should consider issues of dignity and privacy and ensure that personal information is dealt with confidentially.

The benefits of exploring with your member of staff if they have a disability are that there may be simple adjustments you can put in place that will mitigate any potential disadvantages/impact of any impairment, and because you have discussed it with your member of staff, they are more likely to address their specific needs/issues.

Any records in relation to an employee's health and disability are confidential and as such those that handle this information should ensure that:

  • Only information necessary to and relating directly to the management of the disability should be sought; (e.g. from discussions between the employee and manager or via a management referral to SOHS)
  • All relevant and necessary information (e.g. return to work forms, records of review meetings/discussions, management referral reports etc.) should be stored securely (e.g. password protected), and for no longer than necessary;
  • Information is shared only with those directly involved in the management of the case (enabling the employee to see information relating to them on request);
  • It is important to retain a record of all intervention/support and decisions taken to evidence compliance with the sickness absence management procedure and our obligations under the Equality Act 2010. These records may also be helpful as a personal aide memoire to aid the effective management of absence cases.

These principles apply to all personal data, whether it is stored in an electronic or paper format.

For further information on the University's Policies on Data Protection, please see: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/govern/data-protection