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LETS GET DOWN TO BUSINESS.

Question :
With the number of confirmed cases increasing, with notable clusters occurring, the question starting to be asked is if an employee is absent (even while in lock down) due to being diagnosed with Covid-19, can you disclose this information to other employees?

Question submitted 30/03/20 @ 09:11am
Industry: HR & Talent
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  • The privacy act is very clear on when and how private information can be disclosed and it is no different with Covid 19 – see following link https://privacy.org.nz/blog/faqs-on-privacy-and-covid-19/.

    In short you need to gain the consent of the affected employee to have their identity as a sufferer/person in isolation disclosed.

    However, if there is any concern that others in the workplace may have been exposed, they will need to be made aware so that they can be tested and go into (further) isolation. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is necessary to identify the employee in question but obviously given some circumstances (e.g. small office) this may be unavoidable.

    One of the exceptions is where disclosure is to prevent or lessen risks associated to health and safety.

    Employers still have obligations to manage both the privacy of its employees, as well as their health and safety.

    In the first instance you should always seek your employees consent to disclose any personal details about them, including their health.

    Scenario One – Let’s assume that the employee diagnosed with COVID-19 has been at work and some of your other employees may have been exposed – in this instance you have obligations to inform and ensure the employees that may have been exposed then follow the correct procedures. You should endeavour to let your employee know that you need to advise their colleagues of their health status.

    Scenario Two – Let’s assume that the employee diagnosed with COVID-19 has not been at work and no one in the workplace has been exposed. In this instance you are unable to disclose their medical status without their prior approval.

    I’m sure there are some nuances, so feel free to reach out for further clarity.

    Privacy Commissioner John Edwards outlined two useful scenarios in a recent NZ Herald article that may be useful to outline where you should and should not share this sort of information. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12315088

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