Homeworkers face fines for printing out documents, under GDPR

Home workers in the UK are putting their employers at risk of potential data breaches or fines by breaking GDPR regulations. The nationwide poll revealed that 66% of UK adults working at home have printed confidential work documents on their personal printer, from meeting agendas to commercial documents, payroll and CVs.

Other key findings from the study include: Average home worker prints 5 documents at home per week. A fifth (20%) of home workers that have printed at home admit to printing confidential employee information including payroll, addresses, medical information. 24% haven’t disposed of printed documents yet as they plan to take them back to the office. 24% used a home shredding machine but then disposed of the documents in their own waste bin. 12% admit they have absolutely no knowledge GDPR regulations

Two thirds of home workers could be putting employers at risk by printing confidential documents at home. New research* reveals 66% of home workers in the UK are potentially breaching GDPR regulations by printing work related documents at home. Meeting notes, contracts, commercial documents, payroll and CV’s among documents Brits are printing at home.

Currently in the UK, all companies that store or process personal information about EU citizens within EU states must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which requires them to have an effective, documented, auditable process in place for the collection, storage and destruction of personal information.

But with many Brits now working from home due to government restrictions, how many home workers are potentially breaking confidentiality rules by printing documents at home?

A new study* reveals a staggering 66% of home workers have printed work related documents since they began working from home, averaging at 5 documents every week. That means that since the government first advised against all unnecessary social contact on the 16th March 2020, home workers have potentially printed an average of 2202 confidential documents to date.

But what are Brits printing at home to potentially risk a breach of GDPR rules? The top five items home workers admit to printing at home are:

  • Meeting notes/agendas (42%)
  • Internal documents including procedure manuals (32%)
  • Contracts and commercial documents (30%)
  • Receipts/expense forms (27%)
  • Industry related copy (e.g. press release/brochure copy/articles/student work to proof) (24%)

Shockingly, a fifth (20%) of home workers that have printed at home admit to printing confidential employee information including payroll, addresses, medical information and 13% have even printed CVs or application forms. Printing this type of information is a high risk activity and any documentation which includes these details need to be handled and most importantly disposed of correctly.

Delving into the places and professions with the highest number of home workers opting to print work related documents at home, Liverpool leads the way with 80% admitting to the act and those working in Law (86%) are surprisingly the most likely occupation to commit this breach.

When asked whether they have disposed of any printed documents since working from home, nearly a quarter (24%) said haven’t disposed of them yet as they plan to take them back to the office and a further 24% say they used a home shredding machine but then disposed the documents in their own waste. This method of disposal is not recommended due to personal waste bins not providing enough security for confidential waste and therefore still leaving employers open to a data breach and potential fine.

A further 9% of home workers who have printed work related documents at home say they haven’t disposed of them yet but they do plan to in some way but 8% say they have no plans at all to dispose of the work related documents they have printed at home. Interestingly, 7% of home workers admit they haven’t disposed of any work related documents as they don’t know how to.

With this in mind, Brits were asked about their knowledge of GDPR regulations. Surprisingly, 41% of home workers say they are aware of the GDPR rules and regulations around printing confidential documents related to work outside the workplace, but they have no choice other than to print at home

Over a third (36%) said they are aware of the GDPR rules, so never print at home and a further 19% admit they have some knowledge of the regulations but would like to know more. But shockingly, 12% of those polled admit they have absolutely no knowledge of the regulations, with 9% saying their employer has not reinforced rules around GDPR and sensitive information while they’ve been working from home.

Mike Cluskey, Managing Director at Go Shred said: “Printing any documentation which includes personal information about employees or potential employees is high risk activity as should this information get into the wrong hands, it could be used to impersonate someone.

“It’s quite shocking to see that so many home workers are printing items such as payroll and personal information like addresses.

This indicates that there is definitely work to be done when it comes to highlighting the risks of printing documents at home. Even internal documents such as meeting notes and agendas can be risky, so extra precautions should be taken in order to dispose of these properly.

“It’s vital that business leaders review their current processes and educate their staff on the current guidelines, as working from home demands a different security standard than being in the office, especially with data security and disposing of confidential information.”

*Research conducted by Go Shred

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