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Katie – Understanding my rights under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) helped me keep my job

Katie contacted our helpline for some advice around employment after she’d been cautioned by the police for common assault after ‘slapping’ her 7-year old son Jake.

Katie explained that this incident had been completely out of character but Jake’s behaviour whilst out having a family meal had been terrible and had included him hitting and scratching her and screaming at the top of his voice.

Katie told us that as soon as she’d smacked him she was mortified and her son was also fairly shocked although quite calm. Katie was able to sit down with him and explain why his behaviour had been so unacceptable. They went on to watch a television programme together and, as far as Katie was concerned, the incident was ‘over and done with’.

However, at school the following day, Jake told his teacher what had happened and the school immediately contacted the police and social services.

The incident was investigated by both social services and the police and resulted in the caution for common assault.

Whilst the investigation had been ongoing, Katie had kept her employer updated of the situation and they’d allowed her to take some time off as unpaid leave. However, she’d been asked to attend a meeting with her employer’s to give a full explanation of the caution and how it had arisen. After listening to what she had to say, Katie was told that due to a breach of the employer’s Code of Conduct, she could potentially be dismissed and she was told that she was being suspended whilst her employers considered the information she’d given to them.

Following the meeting, Katie read her employers Code of Conduct and was relieved to see that she’d done everything she was required to do. She was confused therefore as to what reason her employer would have to dismiss her and felt she was being treated harshly and unfairly. At that point, Katie searched online for:

“Can I be dismissed for having a caution?” 

and came across Unlock’s details.

Katie spoke to one of our advisors who informed her that as her job was covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and that cautions are spent immediately, then her employers would be collecting and processing excessive information if they were to use her spent conviction as a reason for dismissing her. They could be in breach of the Data Protection Act 2018.

Katie contacted her employer with the information she’d received from Unlock. A few days later, her line manager rang her to tell her that they wouldn’t be taking any further action and that she should return to work the following Monday.

Katie stated:

“I can’t thank Unlock enough for giving me all the information I needed to help me defend myself and prevent me from being dismissed. The advisor I spoke to was not only informative but friendly and supportive – I don’t think I’d have kept my job if it wasn’t for Unlock.”


Although Katie followed her company’s Code of Conduct and informed her employer of her caution, under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), they had no lawful basis and condition for processing this criminal record data.

The employer didn’t intend carrying out a formal criminal record check to verify the information Katie had given to them and this could therefore be considered excessive data collection, a breach of principle (c) of GDPR.

By taking Katie’s spent caution into account, her employer would have been acting unlawfully under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and, as a result be in breach of principle (a) of the GDPR.


Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

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