How Can a Bristol HR Consultancy Firm Ensure Compliance with GDPR When Handling Employee Data?

Data protection has become a critical issue in the current digital age. This is particularly true for HR consultancy firms, who handle personal and sensitive employee data daily. Among the most significant regulations on data protection is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in May 2018 in the European Union. This regulation impacts not only European firms but also those outside the EU that process the personal data of EU citizens. Hence, your Bristol HR consultancy firm must ensure GDPR compliance when handling employee data.

Understanding the GDPR and Its Impact on Data Processing

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a broad-reaching framework that manages how organizations process and protect individuals' personal data. Comprehending this regulation and its implications is the first step to ensuring compliance while processing employee data.

GDPR has introduced several new rights for individuals and obligations for organizations. It provides individuals with more control over their personal data and ensures transparency about how this data is used. On the flip side, organizations are required to implement robust data protection measures and demonstrate accountability for their data processing activities.

One of the most important aspects of GDPR is the principle of 'lawfulness, fairness, and transparency'. This means that organizations should process personal data lawfully, fairly, and in a transparent manner. Here, 'lawful' refers to having a legitimate basis for processing, such as obtaining the individual's consent or fulfilling a contractual obligation.

Ensuring Employee Consent

One of the key elements of GDPR is that organizations must be able to demonstrate that consent was given by individuals for the processing of their personal data. This is particularly relevant when you, as an HR consultancy firm, handle employee data.

To comply with GDPR, you must ensure that consent is freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous. This will involve clearly communicating to the employee what their data will be used for and how it will be protected. You need to provide a straightforward way for employees to give or withdraw their consent.

Consent should not be a one-time event, but a continuous and active process. You should regularly review and refresh consents to ensure they remain valid and appropriate. Remember, an employee has the right to withdraw their consent at any time, and you are obliged to honour this.

Implementing Robust Data Protection Measures

GDPR mandates that organizations implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a high level of data security. As an HR consultancy firm, you are entrusted with sensitive employee data, making it crucial for you to have robust data protection measures in place.

Data protection measures can range from encryption of personal data and the use of pseudonymisation techniques, to the implementation of secure software systems. All these measures and more will help prevent unauthorized access and breaches, thereby protecting the integrity and confidentiality of employee data.

In addition, you need to have a process in place to regularly evaluate and improve your data protection measures. This way, you can ensure that the measures are effective and adapt to evolving security threats.

Ensuring Legitimate Data Processing

Legitimate data processing is an essential aspect of GDPR. As an HR consultancy firm, you must ensure that you have a valid legal basis for processing personal data. The legal basis can include consent from the individual, the necessity of the data for the performance of a contract, or compliance with a legal obligation.

In addition, you should only collect and process personal data that is relevant and necessary for your intended purpose. The principle of 'data minimisation' under GDPR mandates that organizations should keep the amount of data collected and stored to a minimum.

If you are using psychometric testing in your recruitment process, you need to be particularly careful. Such tests often involve the processing of special categories of personal data, which are subject to stricter protection under GDPR. You must ensure that you have explicit consent from the individual and that the data is processed in a way that respects their privacy.

Training Your Employees on GDPR Compliance

To ensure effective GDPR compliance, it's not enough for your HR consultancy firm to have policies and procedures in place. You also need to ensure that your employees understand the importance of data protection and GDPR compliance.

You should provide regular training and awareness sessions to your employees. This will help them understand the principles of GDPR, their responsibilities in handling personal data, and the consequences of non-compliance.

Besides, you must ensure that your employees are trained on how to identify and report data breaches. They should know how to respond in the event of a data breach to mitigate its impact and ensure compliance with GDPR's reporting requirements.

Remember, GDPR is not just about compliance; it's about demonstrating your respect for individuals' data protection rights. By ensuring compliance with GDPR, your HR consultancy firm shows its commitment to data protection, thereby building trust and confidence with your clients and their employees.

Remember, GDPR compliance is not just a legal obligation, but a representation of your firm's respect for personal data protection. By demonstrating compliance, you not only avoid hefty fines but also build trust with your clients and their employees.

Data Transfer to Third Parties and Automated Decision-Making

When handling employee data, HR consultancy firms often have to work with third parties, such as payroll providers or insurers. The GDPR requires that any sharing or transfer of personal data to third parties should be done securely and with the individual’s consent.

You must ensure that any third-party providers you work with are also compliant with the GDPR. Due diligence should be carried out before transferring data to third parties. It is crucial that they have robust data protection measures in place and that they handle data in a manner consistent with the GDPR principles.

Furthermore, you might be using automated decision-making in your HR processes, for example, for initial screening of job applications. The GDPR provides individuals with the right to object to decisions based solely on automated processing, including profiling, if they have legal or similarly significant effects on them. Therefore, you must ensure that individuals are aware of any automated decision-making and that they can request human intervention or challenge such decisions if necessary.

Handling Special Category Data

Your HR consultancy firm might deal with special category data, which refers to sensitive personal data such as racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious beliefs, trade union membership, health, sex life, or sexual orientation. The GDPR places stricter controls on processing this type of data, and it can only be processed under certain conditions.

One of the conditions for processing special category data is explicit consent. You must ensure that individuals are fully aware that they are providing consent for the processing of their sensitive personal data. In addition, the consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.

When handling psychometric data, which often falls under special category data, you need to be particularly careful. Such tests often involve sensitive personal data, and you must ensure that you have explicit consent and that the data is processed in a way that respects their privacy.


Understanding and complying with the GDPR is not just about avoiding fines; it is about showing respect for individuals' data protection rights and demonstrating your firm's commitment to data security. By implementing robust data protection measures, ensuring legitimate and transparent processing, obtaining informed consent, training your staff, and managing the transfer of data to third parties, your HR consultancy firm can ensure GDPR compliance when handling employee data.

Remember, you are not only a data controller but also a custodian of your employees' trust. By ensuring GDPR compliance, you uphold this trust and establish your firm as a reliable, respected, and trusted partner in handling employee data.