Bosses across the UK are being warned about the need to ensure confidential data is secure as staff prepare to work from home for the foreseeable future.

Employment specialist Darryll Thomas has issued the alert as he says many employers believed working from home would be a temporary measure when people were told to stay at home at the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

However, the partner at Midlands law firm mfg Solicitors, said many employers had not made the necessary changes to their workers’ employment contracts to ensure the security of confidential information – putting them at risk of breaching data protection laws.

He said: “There’s often an express contractual obligation for workers not to disclose confidential information. Additionally, employers should have a data policy in place as well as having entered a Privacy Notice with all workers. 

“In the workplace it is much easier for adherence to such policies to be monitored and maintained, however it’s significantly more difficult to enforce this when your staff are spread across multiple locations whilst working from home.

“Quite simply, businesses who have staff working from home need to have a data privacy impact assessment and risk assessment, in which they cover who can access the employees’ computer, password and encryption measures and what happens with data, paper and electronic files moving between the office and home.”

Businesses should seek advice urgently if they do not have specific measures in place to cover homeworking, Mr Thomas added. He also warned them to ensure they had appropriate health and safety measures in place.

“Employers’ duty to their staff does not end just because they are no longer in the same building,” Mr Thomas said. “Staff will face hazards as well as mental health challenges due to the isolation and lack of support that comes from not being able to see colleagues regularly face to face.

“Working from home was something that was very much in the minority before coronavirus, but now it’s common and since the resurgence of infections a few weeks ago, people are being told to start working from home again for the foreseeable future.

“Bosses had to act fast to get everyone set up at home in March and they did an admirable job. But now they need to make sure they’re complying with the law and protecting their workers and their customers.”

Readers requiring more information can contact Darryll Thomas at mfg Solicitors through [email protected] or by calling 0845 55 55 321.