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Masterclass – Privacy and employment

Who should attend

This half-day masterclass has been designed for managers who are involved in handling the personal information of employees, particularly where there are concerns about that employee’s performance, conduct, attendance or fitness for duty. The course will be particularly useful for Human Resource managers who are responsible for case management.

Outline and objectives

In this half-day course, we will explore problem scenarios to explain how privacy considerations affect the management of employees and of HR issues. The questions we will address include:

  • How much information can I share about an employee’s complex medical issues, and with whom?
  • Would posting comments/images about a colleague on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram or another social media platforms be a breach of that colleague’s privacy? Would it be a breach of the APS Code of Conduct?
  • Can I use an employee’s disciplinary history in deciding whether to give them a higher duties assignment?
  • When can I use building security records to verify an employee’s flex-time claims?
  • When can I collect and use information from social networking sites to manage an employee’s leave/attendance?
  • Am I entitled to make a covert audio recording of a performance feedback session with a difficult employee?
  • Do I need an employee’s consent to forward their past medical records to a doctor who is going to perform a fitness-for-duty assessment?
  • If an employee lodges a bullying complaint but wants the complaint to be handled anonymously, what should the agency do?
  • Can my agency refuse to communicate with any person who, in the agency’s view, treats our staff in a discourteous, hurtful or intimidating fashion? Would I breach our employees’ privacy if I explain to the person why the agency is no longer prepared to deal with them?
  • What problems can arise if a former colleague dislikes my comments in a referee report I prepare at their request?

By the end of the session, participants will have a sound appreciation for the complexities that can arising when handling personal information in the context of an employment relationship under strain and a better appreciation of the principles that guide better practice and better decision-making in these situations.


Virginia Masters is a Senior Executive Lawyer with more than a decade of experience in handling complex and intractable employment issues for the Commonwealth. She has defended decisions made by managers and delegates before the Merit Protection Commissioner and the Commonwealth Ombudsman, and in the Fair Work Commission, Australian Human Rights Commission, the Federal Circuit Court and the Federal Court. Virginia uses that experience to teach managers how to make employment decisions that are sound, well-reasoned and defensible.

Catherine Mann is a Senior Executive Lawyer specialising in public sector employment and workplace relations law. She represents and advises Commonwealth agencies on the full range of employment and workplace relations issues, including complex and contentious matters relating to discrimination, dismissals, SES employment issues, public interest disclosures and enterprise agreements. Her experience also includes administrative law litigation in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Federal Court, Federal Circuit Court and workers’ compensation. She was solicitor on the record for the Minister for Workplace Relations in the Board of Bendigo TAFE v Barclay High Court appeal, and for the Commonwealth in the Ashby v Slipper litigation. She also worked on the fleet-grounding Qantas dispute.

Jane Lye is Director of the AGS Brisbane office. She provides specialist legal advice on freedom of information (FOI), privacy, archives, administrative review and judicial review. She has undertaken numerous Privacy Impact Assessments for Commonwealth agencies. She acts in administrative law matters brought before the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Federal Circuit Court, Federal Court and Full Federal Court, particularly FOI applications. She is an accredited trainer and designs and presents legal seminars on administrative law, including FOI, records management and privacy.


This is a half-day course, either 9 am to 12.30 pm or 1.30 pm to 5 pm. The calendar indicates when sessions are being offered by either ‘am’ or ‘pm’.

Morning/afternoon tea will be provided.


Standard fee – $600 (inclusive of GST) per person.

No more than 20 people will be accepted on each course, and courses will only be conducted if we receive sufficient nominations