Confidentiality Policy: All You Need to Know
Confidentiality in a workplace is ultimately essential for ethical and legal reasons. Any kind of workplace that deals with customers, internal businesses, employees, stakeholders, and volunteers must keep their data safe. To ensure this, you need a confidentiality policy in place.
You need to remember that it’s no courtesy from an organisation to keep the information of its employees, shareholders, volunteers, and customers confidential. Protecting their data is a moral etiquette and equally a legal responsibility.
Also, just like every work or job done in an organisation is codependent, so is this process. To secure confidential information, everyone in the organisation needs to cooperate and work together for this to happen. The only way to achieve it is by introducing and emphasising a confidentiality policy. The confidentiality policy agreement is also known as the nondisclosure agreement.
Emphasising a confidentiality policy doesn’t mean that the people involved in the process would breach any private information. All your data is in your computer systems, which can easily be accessed by third or external parties.
With all the risks around carrying out this process without a data protection act, confidentiality policy documents are a big mistake that you cannot correct. Your confidentiality measures must be vital to avoid breaching information relating to anything that shouldn’t be disclosed.
Now that you understand the importance of the confidentiality policy in the workplace, here are 4 main aspects that need to be covered:
- During the onboarding process.
- During the employment period.
- Employee termination or resignation.
- After employment.
During the Onboarding Process
Your dire duty as a hiring manager is to ensure the new employees are educated about the need for confidentiality in the workplace. This can be an addition to your training program to ensure the newbies know what can and cannot be discussed outside the workplace.
Multiple companies adhere to specific nondisclosure agreements, so you must start from the very beginning.
When the term “training” comes, it shouldn’t stop there. Prepare a detailed document with clauses that clearly state an employee’s liability towards confidentiality. The contract or agreement should enhance their knowledge and not confuse them. The employees must be aware that once the employment is ceased, they must adhere to it.
During the Employment Period
Once the employees are on board and trained enough about the confidentiality policy, it’s time to take practical steps towards it. The following are a few initiatives/procedures you can put in your workplace to stop breaching confidentiality:
- Secure all your computer and emails with a password.
- Any confidential information should be granted access to employees only on a need-to-know basis and not randomly.
- Protect your workplace by ensuring files cannot be removed without granting specific permission.
- Instructing or discouraging employees from using personal devices (personal laptops or mobile phones) while they have access to confidential information is one of your legitimate reasons. You can draft your policies clearly and specifically regarding the same.
- You can take the data protection act a step ahead by implementing an ethical surveillance monitoring program. These kinds of programs are designed to flag any possible breaches of confidentiality policy. However, start this program with legal proceedings and ensure employees know their workplace behavior is monitored.
Employment Termination or Resignation
Some employees will inevitably leave the business at some point. Employment agreements must clearly state what the employee is obligated to return to the company upon their resignation or termination.
The following are a few confidential material must-haves:
- Must return the items the company has given to the employee during the onboarding process, laptops and mobile phones (if any) that have confidential information.
- Any confidential material held on personal devices, in which case, they should agree to delete the material.
- Agree to delete confidential information stored in employees’ personal devices.
The last day is the best time to remind the Corporations Act employees to access confidential information, and they no longer can claim or gain an advantage over their previous employers. Ensure their emails and accounts are deactivated, and any confidential information is removed.
If you can’t speak to the employee during their last day, you can send out an email that restates the employee’s responsibilities regarding confidential information.
You might think the possibility of breaching confidential information is significantly less after the employees leave the company, but it’s the other way around. There are possibilities where your past employees might cause some trouble (be prepared for that).
If you are notified about your previous employee using the company’s confidential information, you immediately need to initiate a letter of demand asking them to formally agree to delete all the information regarding the company. The agreement can be in the form of a signed document that will lead to corrective action.
In the unfortunate event where the employee doesn’t respond to your email, as a last resort, you can get a court order to stop them from doing so (until a formal court ruling can be gained.) In such legal landscape cases, you can get an HR expert’s help.
Making everyone in the company maintain confidentiality measures is a very critical business strategy. You need to go through multiple legal steps to ensure that your policies are correct and there are no loopholes for malicious damage.
You can seek help from HR consultants to handle such tricky matters regarding employee contracts, Non-Disclosure Agreements, and Confidentiality policies. Since this part of your business is very tough, it is best to have appropriate guidance in drafting the confidential clauses.
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