What is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

The General Data Protection Regulation (2016/679 EU) (GDPR) is the new governing legislation for collecting and processing personal data in the EU.

It is in effect from 25 May 2018 for all EU member states, including the UK. When the UK leaves the EU, the GDPR will be incorporated into UK law by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, so the GDPR standards will continue to apply following Brexit. The Government has also introduced the Data Protection Act 2018, which supplements the GDPR, replacing the Data Protection Act 1998.

The GDPR requires that personal data be processed according to many of the same principles as under the previous Data Protection Act 1998. However, employers should note, in particular, that the GDPR has new requirements:

  • that restrict the use of consent as a justification for processing data;
  • on demonstrating compliance through the documentation of data processing activities;
  • on adopting organisational measures for data protection such as policies and practices; and
  • on providing more information to employees and job applicants on the purpose and legal grounds for collecting their data, and their rights in relation to their personal data.

Employers should also be aware that the GDPR creates a new enforcement system, with significantly higher maximum penalties than under the Data Protection Act 1998. In particular, breach of the GDPR in some circumstances can lead to a maximum fine of €20 million or 4% of an undertaking's worldwide annual turnover, whichever is higher.