The Hungarian Data Protection Authority („HDPA”, „Authority”) has issued on its website a briefing regarding data processing related to the coronavirus epidemic, also including certain general legal obligations beyond data protection. We have summarized the most important details as follows:
1. It is not only a vital interest but also a legal obligation of employers to provide a healthy and safe workplace.
2. Prior to any data processing, employers may be expected to create an epidemic action plan (preventive measures, allowing alternative working conditions (“home office”), procedure to be followed if the infection appears, assignment of responsible personnel within the company, implementation of a reporting system).
3. As a preventive measure within the action plan, it is recommended to provide employees with all necessary details, especially on the most critical information on the coronavirus (rules of hygiene, symptoms, who to report to within the company). The document titled “Procedure regarding the novel coronavirus identified in the year 2020” published on the website of the National Public Health Center could provide helpful for employers when wording the information.
4. According to the Labour Code, the employees shall report to the employer if they have knowledge of a risk of infection, including the risk of their own illness. With regards to this, the reporting system shall be implemented in a way that allows for confidential processing of data.
5. In the event of a report or suspicion of infection the HDPA considers filling out a questionnaire appropriate. Particular attention shall be paid to data minimisation. Employers shall not process the data of the suspected employee related to the epidemic beyond the questionnaire. The Authority specifically notes that data related to medical history or medical documentation shall not be requested or processed by the employer!
6. It needs to be emphasized that the employer shall not begin contact investigation, this should be entrusted with the investigating authority having jurisdiction!
7. Also important to note, the employer shall not conduct medical examination (i.e. use of thermometer), however, the professional examination of employees may be initiated through the involvement of healthcare professionals (first and foremost the company doctor).
8. The legal ground for the above data processing is based on the employer’s legitimate interest, if the medical examination of employees becomes necessary, the exceptional purpose of processing shall be in the interest of providing a healthy workplace.
9. It is recommended for employers to favour measures that do not result in the processing of data (following basic hygiene, providing disinfectants, proper cleaning). We would also like to note that the legislation does not allow for employers to distribute vitamins, medicine or immune-boosting products, etc. among its employees, therefore these are not legally possible as a preventive measure.