Does an employer have the right to retain any personal data gathered during the application process?

The Data Protection Act 1998 imposes obligations on employers in relation to the information that they gather and retain about job applicants (and existing employees). The Act covers all personal information held about an individual, whether the files are set up manually or held on computer. An employer can process personal data only for specified purposes and should not keep data for longer than is necessary in relation to the purpose. Therefore, the employer should tell applicants that it intends to retain the information, explain the reason for this and have a system in place for determining when the data is no longer to be retained.