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Question: “If someone asks for the date of birth of a colleague and says that it is because they want to send a birthday card we give them the day and month but not the year of birth. However someone objected to that and said that we were breaking the law. Are we?”
It may sound petty but, yes, you would be in breach of the Data Protection Act. Personal data such as date of birth, home address, telephone number and so on are held by the employer in confidence and should not be revealed unless there is a strict business need to know, the enquirer has a statutory authority to demand the information, or the employee gives permission.
You need to make this quite clear to all your employees. It may well restrict their ability to carry out certain well meaning social functions but it also signals that they can trust you to hold their own personal information in confidence. I suggest that if someone wishes to receive cards from their work colleagues they will find some way of letting them know when to act.
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