Contractors that bought information on potential employees from a Midlands-based company’s database could face legal action, it was claimed this week.
Solicitors said contractors could be prosecuted for failing to notify Information Commissioner about how they were using the information when vetting recruits.
Last week the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) closed down the Consultancy Association which runs the database.
The ICO claims that the firm illegally sold personal information about 3,213 construction workers to 40 major UK contractors. It said contractors could use the information to vet potential employees, creating a “blacklist”. Workers’ personal relationships, trade union activities, and employment histories were held on the secret database, operated by Ian Kerr of Droitwich, Worcestershire.
“This is a serious breach of the Data Protection Act,” said Deputy Information Commissioner David Smith. “Not only was personal information held on individuals without their knowledge or consent but the very existence of the database was repeatedly denied.
“We will prosecute Mr Kerr and we are also considering what regulatory action to take against construction firms who have been using the system.” Major firms including Amec, Balfour Beatty, Bam Nuttall, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Morgan Est, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska and Vinci all paid £3,000 a year to Kerr for access to the database.
A Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform spokesman said the government was considering the Information Commisioner’s report and would decide whether to tighten up the law. If there was compelling evidence that blacklisting was taking place, it would consider making the practice illegal under regulations drafted in 2003, but never brought forward due to lack of sufficient evidence.
CMS Cameron McKenna senior association Sophie White, an expert on employment law, said that contractors could also be exposed to claims from some of the 3,213 people on the list if they had evidence that it was used to discriminate against them. “If employers are using the information to vet employees on the basis of unlawful discrimination they could be subject to a claim,” she said.
The table below lists the companies that subscribed to the Consulting Association. The use of brackets indicates where companies have undergone a change of name or where subsidiaries have been absorbed by parent companies. Ex members may no longer exist or no longer avail themselves of Kerr’s service.
The following companies subscribed to the Consulting Association:
Amec Building Ltd
Amec Construction Ltd
Amec Facilities Ltd
Amec Ind Div
Amec Process & Energy Ltd
Amey Construction - Ex Member
B Sunley & Sons - Ex Member
Ballast (Wiltshire) PLc - Ex Member
Bam Construction (HBC Construction)
Bam Nuttall (Edmund Nutall Ltd)
C B & I
Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd
Costain UK Ltd
Crown House Technologies
Diamond M & E Services
Dudley Bower & Co Ltd - Ex Member
Emcor (Drake & Scull) - ‘Ex Ref’
G Wimpey Ltd - Ex Member
John Mowlem Ltd -Ex Member
Laing O’Rourk (Laing Ltd)
Lovell Construction (UK) Ltd - Ex Member
Miller Construction Limited - Ex Member
Morrison Construction Group -Ex Member
N G Bailey
Shepherd Engineering Services
Sias Building Services
Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd
SPIE (Matthew Hall) - Ex Member
Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd - Ex Member
Turriff Construction Ltd -Ex Member
Tysons Contractors - Ex Member
Walter Llewellyn & Sons Ltd - Ex Member
Whessoe Oil & Gas
Willmott Dixon - Ex Member
Vinci PLC (Norwest Holst Group)