The Hamburg DPA has this week fined H&M just over €35m for keeping extensive electronic records of its employees' private lives. Such records included:

  • Details of specific symptoms of illnesses suffered during a period of sick leave, including the diagnoses;
  • Details of experiences the employee engaged in during their vacation;
  • Recording the above details as part of a systematic “Welcome Back Talk” following the employees’ return to work after a period of sick leave or vacation (no matter how short the leave was); and
  • Personal details obtained from “water cooler” chats with employees, including family problems and religious beliefs, which were subsequently recorded electronically.

We hope this is a one-off case and that most employers would know that this type of data collection is too intrusive. However, given the new remote working culture, this decision may make employers who have up'd their "surveillance" of employees during the pandemic, think twice.