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Friday 10 July 2020

FDA successfully challenges BEIS over staff data request

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The FDA has successfully challenged the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), after staff were told to declare their media contacts, including if they knew anyone working in economic or political journalism.

The department had advised staff, without consultation with the departmental trade unions, that it would be updating its Conflict of Interest policy to include media contacts, and the information collected would be stored on a temporary register.

“After members raised this with our BEIS Branch Secretary Stephen Cummins, we immediately made our serious concerns known to the department, along with our colleagues in the other departmental unions, and advised our members not to provide this information until proper discussions had taken place with trade union side,” said FDA Assistant General Secretary Lucille Thirlby.

“The trade unions had neither agreed to this new policy nor received any proposals for changes to the existing conflict of interest guidance.”

Despite the initial action taken by the FDA, BEIS again wrote to staff setting a deadline for receipt of the information of 5pm on 25 June.

“At this stage, we had still not received any justification from the department for why they required this information and we were hugely concerned about this use of personal data. We urged the department to withdraw the request, immediately communicate this decision to staff and securely destroy any information already submitted,” Thirlby continued.

Having also formally written to the department, the FDA finally received confirmation that, as a result of the work of the FDA and our other trade union colleagues, the department would erase all the data supplied so far in relation to the request and would enter discussions about the Conflicts of Interest policy.

Thirlby concluded: “The FDA is always ready to engage with the department over proposals to update their internal policies, and we look forward to taking part in those discussions, but we will always remain alert to any attempts to collect and store unnecessary data about our members.”

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