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A guide to confidentiality breaches in the workplace for employers and freelancers

2-minute read

Anna Delves

Anna Delves

21 June 2017

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Whether you’re a business owner or you’re self-employed, breaches of confidentiality can cause serious problems.

Our guide will walk you through what a breach of confidentiality is, how you can prepare against one, and what you can do if one takes place.

What is a breach of confidentiality?

A breach of confidentiality is where information is disclosed to someone without the consent of the person or persons who owns that data.

For example, if a management or business consultant were to put together a document using confidential information from a business they’re consulting for, then email it to a different client by accident, that would be a breach of confidentiality.

Breeches of confidentiality don’t even have to be a mistake. If you have sensitive information on your computer, and that computer is stolen, then that is a breach of confidentiality.

How to protect against breaches of confidentiality

These days, most people who come into contact with a business, whether as an employee or freelancer, will have access to confidential information.

There are steps both business owners and freelancers can take to minimise the risk of confidentiality breaches. Here are some of the main ones.

How can businesses avoid breaches of confidentiality

  1. Make sure everyone coming into the business, either as an employee or freelancer, has training on your security process.
  2. Have a written confidentiality policy in place and make it easily accessible.
  3. Manage access to folders to keep out unauthorised employees and freelancers.
  4. Set up permissions for work emails so that only certain people can read and reply to emails in shared inboxes.
  5. Encrypt as much of your sensitive data as you can, especially on removable storage devices (such as USB sticks and external hard drives).

For freelancers and other contractors

  1. Keep your client files somewhere with password protection and enable two-factor authentication.
  2. Never connect to non-private networks (such as WiFi in cafes) when accessing client data.
  3. Encrypt as much of your sensitive data as you can, especially on removable storage devices (such as USB sticks and external hard drives).
  4. You could purchase professional indemnity insurance just in case the worst happens and you suffer a data breach.

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What to do if a breach of confidentiality happens

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you might breach confidentiality, or have your confidentiality breached.

Whether you’re an employee, employer or freelancer, you should read over your contract to see exactly what it says about confidentiality breaches and then contact your legal representative, who will be able to advise you further.

If you have legal expenses insurance as part of your Simply Business policy, you have access to a number of useful services through DAS Businesslaw (you’ll just need your voucher code found in your policy documents to register).

DAS has a legal advice helpline, available whether you’re facing a serious legal issue or just want to check something with an adviser. They also offer a range of legal templates and guides to help you with managing a data breach.

Please note this article is just a guide, and you should conduct your own thorough research if you're worried about breaches of confidentiality.

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Anna Delves

Written by

Anna Delves

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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