Shorter version of snooping rules a relief to employers

Friday, 10 January 2003, 12:31 PM EST

Small businesses will get a greatly simplified version of the code of practice on monitoring staff, the new privacy watchdog said yesterday, in an attempt to defuse bitter industry opposition.

Richard Thomas, who has taken over as Information Commissioner, has ordered an easy-to-follow guide to help smaller employers understand their responsibilities under the most controversial part of the data protection code.

The move follows criticism that employers were at risk of breaking the law by snooping on their staff because the privacy code was too long, overly bureaucratic and unworkable.

The 200-page draft code, which gives guidance on how the Data Protection Act effects business, is split into four sections and covers a multitude of areas including the right of workers to demand interview notes and a ban on employers looking at private e-mails. Two parts have already been published but it is the third section that has sparked the greatest fear among employers.

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