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ICO publishes employer guidance on sharing personal data in mental health emergencies

on Wednesday, 13 March 2024.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has issued employer guidance on the extent to which it is permissible to share personal data about workers during a mental health emergency.

Mental health emergencies at work

The new guidance aims to give employers clarity about sharing information about workers who are experiencing a mental health crisis. For the purpose of the guidance, a mental health crisis (or emergency) is a situation where there is a belief that a person is at serious risk of harming themselves or others because of their mental health. It contains advice around the timely sharing of necessary and proportionate information with relevant emergency services and/or the worker's next of kin.

Policies and communication

The guidance acknowledges that in some cases, a mental health emergency arises with little warning, and an employer might not be prepared for it. In order to manage this risk, the guidance encourages employers to give thought to how they would respond to a worker's mental health emergency before the event. It contains advice on policy development, transparency and staff communications.

There must be a lawful basis on which to share information. As health information is considered 'special category data', there must also be a special category condition present.

The guidance contains advice on which lawful bases and special category conditions are most likely to apply. This information can be recorded in workplace policies, which must be communicated and explained to workers. The prospect of sharing medical information during a mental health emergency should also be included as part of a data protection impact assessment.

For more information or advice, please contact Mark Stevens in our Employment team on 0117 314 5401, or complete the form below.

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