In this weeks question of the week, Alistair answers “Can Employees see Their HR File?”


An employee has asked to see their personnel file, am I obliged to do show them all information?


Under the Data Protection Act 1998, an employee is entitled to submit a written request for access to any personal data about them.

There are some exceptions to an employee’s right of access to their personal data. One exception to the employer’s duty to disclose personal data is where the information requested is for the purpose of management forecasting or management planning, and where disclosure could prejudice the employer’s interests.

Another main exception is where disclosure of the information would reveal personal information about a third party who can be identified from the information. In this case, the employer may not automatically refuse to disclose the information.

This could include a reference from a previous employer.  Instead, the employer should seek either to edit the relevant documents in order to conceal the identity of the third party or, if this is not possible, to seek his or her consent to the disclosure of the information. The employer should also disclose the data if it would be reasonable in all the circumstances to do so without the consent of the third party. What is reasonable will depend on the duty of confidentiality owed to the third party, any steps that the employer has taken to seek his or her consent and whether the third party is capable of giving consent or has expressly refused consent.

Under the Data Protection Act, you have 40 days from the written request to supply the information, and you can charge an admin fee of up to £10.  You can also provide a room for your employee to review the file, ensuring they have time to check what is held on file.

If you have any further questions relating to this or any other HR matter, please get in touch.