Ethics, Privacy in the Workplace

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Introduction
The aim of this essay is to provide a supportive argument – “for” the notion that an individual’s privacy is more important than any other considerations in the workplace. Workplace scenarios will be outlined including job applications, storage of personal information, Internet and email, information technology effects on privacy, workplace policies and procedures and medical privacy. Differing ethical theories will be applied to both sides of the argument.

The Individual’s Privacy in the workplace
Getting the job.
The story is often heard in Australia how easy it was for people to gain employment in the economically booming 1960’s and early 1970’s; of how people would walk into a workplace in the morning and get a job straight away or within a couple of days jobseeking. Resumes, application letters and application forms were unheard of unless you were applying for a professional level position. As competition for jobs increased in the mid 1970’s and early 1980’s more and more selection tools were required when hiring new staff. Resume’s detailing training, past employment and referees assisted in the selection or rejection of new staff. Applicants are not required to list information in their Resume such as marital status, gender, political leanings, religion, date of birth and number of children as part of equal employment opportunity legislation. In government based agencies in particular, merit based recruitment is stressed. Whilst in small privately owned businesses, employers still prefer to recruit new staff who are known to them or who are recommended friends of existing staff members. With current federal legislative requirements regarding unfair dismissal rules, employers must use care when employing new staff. A job seeker expects their private information to be handled with trust and discretion. The employer expects information to be relevant so they can make an accurate assessment of the job seeker. When it comes to ethics, both parties are acting in their own best interests. The seeker wants a job which is rewarding and lucrative in return for their effort. The employer wants the most skilled person for the least financial outlay possible so that business goals and healthy profits can be achieved. By applying the ethical consequential theory of Egoism regarding privacy, both parties are acting out of self-interest which best serves their own long term goals. According to psychological egoism, humans are by nature – selfish. The jobseeker will divulge only enough personal information which will enable them to get and keep the job. The employer seeks to find out as much information as possible about the jobseeker so that their business is not damaged in the long run by selecting an inappropriate candidate. Shaw (2009) Page 59

Stored Information
Traditionally an employee’s basic personal information such as their resume, emergency contact details, and bank details would usually be kept on hard file in a locked personnel filing cabinet. Personal information shared amongst work colleagues was up to the discretion of the employee and staff encouraged to leave personal problems or beliefs at home. With the advent of information technology systems becoming more commonplace, communications though shared databases, email, intranet, internet and even social media have largely replaced paper files in storing company and personal information. Besides conducting simple one to one personal communication in the workplace, our personal and private information is shared in cyberspace with and without our express permission and may be accessed off site by internal staff or external IT support contractors with administrative access. Websites visited and programs/files accessed on work computers in work time can be logged and monitored. This database of information needs to be protected from improper use and access by unauthorised people. The employee expects that the privacy of their...
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