Employment records and the Privacy Act

The Commonwealth Privacy Act  prescribes what are named the Australian Privacy Principles (there are 13 of them  https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/pa1988108/s6.html#australian_privacy_principle) and they  include provisions which deal with the collection, use, disclosure and storage of personal information. They apply to federal government agencies and all private sector organisations, including Australian employers.

Oddly in my view, the legislation expressly exempts private sector organisations including employers from complying with the Principles when handling  employee records  (https://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/legis/cth/consol_act/pa1988108/s6.html#australian_privacy_principle) which relate to current or former employees which are directly related to the employment relationship or records concerning individual employees.

It is common practice in the mining industry in Australia for employers to subscribe to a data base of “employee records” which are accessible to subscribers (for example rival mining companies) one of the practical effects of which is that if an employee is dismissed by a company other companies which subscribe to the service can access information which reveals that dismissal.

The controversial legal basis for this is the legislative exemption of “employee records” from the Privacy Act.