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HR tip: Problems of confidentiality

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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.


Question:

"I agreed to listen to an employee in confidence but in the course of the subsequent conversation it became apparent that he was cheating the company. What can I do? By doing my duty to my employer I would be breaking my promise of confidentiality."

HR tip:

Really you are not in a position to give a blanket assurance of confidentiality and should not do so. Suppose the employee told you in confidence that he or she was sexually abusing the children and was going to do so again tonight. Could you really keep silent? If, in future, you are asked to treat as confidential anything that is about to be revealed, you should say that, whilst you cannot guarantee absolute confidentiality, you will treat whatever is said with the greatest possible discretion.

In this particular case, you need to do what is right by the company, though you may wish to tell the employee in advance that you propose to do so. By doing your duty to the employer you cannot be criticised legitimately or morally in any way.

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