New ICO Guidance on Sharing Personal Data in Mental Health Emergencies

Employers need to plan ahead to ensure personal data can be shared appropriately to protect those affected by a mental health crisis.
Wed 20th Mar 2024

New guidance for employers on sharing personal data about their workers during a mental health emergency has been published by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Protecting the mental and physical health of the person involved, and of any others who may be impacted is a key message in the guidance. Data protection does not act as a barrier to necessary and appropriate information sharing in, for example, situations where a mental health emergency occurs, the guidance says.

To ensure that employers mitigate the risk of serious harm to the worker concerned or to others, the ICO guidance acknowledges that employers may need to share necessary and proportionate information with the relevant emergency services and health professionals.

In certain circumstances, an employer will be able to share a worker’s personal information with their next of kin or emergency contract. Employers are required, the ICO guidance stipulates, to use care and judgement in determining the level of information to share based on each specific case.

Where there is a suspected mental health emergency of a worker, the ICO encourages employers to plan how they will deal with personal data sharing by taking the following action:

  • Identify the correct lawful basis for processing and sharing personal data in circumstances where a mental health emergency occurs.
  • Develop a policy on personal data sharing for mental health emergencies. The policy should describe the type of information involved, who they may need to share the information with, and the security measures in place.
  • Share the policy with all workers and provide training on handling personal data during a mental health emergency.
  • Ensure that details of next of kin and emergency or mental health contacts for workers are kept up to date through regular review.
  • Consider allowing workers to provide separate emergency contacts for mental health emergencies to those they provide for general emergencies.

You can read the ICO guidance on sharing information about workers in the event of a mental health emergency here.

For help and advice on this topic or related issues, please contact Emily Morrison by calling 01727 798106 or emailing emily.morrison@salaw.com.

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Every care is taken in the preparation of our articles. However, no responsibility can be accepted to any person who acts on the basis of information contained in them alone. You are recommended to obtain specific advice in respect of individual cases.