By Sarah Thompson, employment lawyer, McGuireWoods.
SARs are often used by employees or former employees as a “fishing expedition” to obtain information in the context of disciplinaries, grievances and litigation, rather than for verifying/correcting their personal data. Previous court decisions have held that making an SAR in this context was an abuse of process and not the purpose of the legislation. However, recent cases and the ICO Code have clarified that an employee’s purpose for making the request is not relevant and employers need to respond regardless of whether the employee has an ulterior motive for making an SAR.
- Disproportionate effort
Employers can refuse to provide information where doing so would involve disproportionate effort. Difficulties throughout the process (from finding, analysing and providing the data) can be taken into account. However, employers must be able to show that they have taken all reasonable steps to comply with the request and, as the ICO Code notes, “should be prepared to make extensive efforts to find and retrieve the requested information.”