As COVID-19 quickly spreads across the globe and has now been officially declared a pandemic, many companies are facing difficult business and legal challenges and are required to make some urgent decisions in order to keep their workforce safe and ensure business continuity. Accessing data plays a crucial role in containing the spread of the virus but not every data processing can be justified on that basis. A balance must be found between protecting public health and personal privacy. For example, here are five common questions many companies are facing:

  • Can an employer lawfully conduct temperature checks of employees and visitors in its premises?
  • Can an employer require employees to inform HR / their line manager if their temperature rises above the normal threshold?
  • Can an employer require employees (and visitors to its premises) to complete travel declaration forms?
  • Have data privacy regulators issued any guidance either permitting or restricting the collection of personal data for purposes of identifying Covid-19 cases?
  • Is an employer permitted to disclose the identity of any worker who is confirmed to have COVID-19 to other co-workers?

There are generally no clear-cut answers to these questions and it is imperative to carefully assess options against factual circumstances and their impact on data subjects’ right to privacy. The Coronavirus outbreak is an escalating situation, authorities are issuing advice on a daily basis and it is crucial to assess the effectiveness, proportionality and reasonableness of any proposed measures carefully on a case-by-case basis and in light of most recent information and developments on Covid-19.

To help you get started in your assessment, we have summarized high-level legal comments for 13 countries in a guide.

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