Headhunter error has left me vulnerable: Ask the Expert

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Q: A headhunter recently sent out my details to somebody in my company "by mistake". Their privacy statement says, "Your information will not be forwarded to any parties outside our group (with the exception of our clients, agents who process data on our behalf and successors in title to our business) without your consent. Should my boss hear about that and should I suffer on the bonus side, what can I do?

A: How infuriating! We hope you have withdrawn your details from the agency in question and will have nothing further to do with them, as they clearly do not know their business. Did you get a proper apology? Did you make a formal complaint to the managing director of the company? That is something you should definitely do to help avoid such mistakes in future.

Realistically speaking an apology is about all you can expect, as far as the recruitment company is concerned. Our legal experts at DLA Piper say you are unlikely to have any comeback if you suffer a reduction in bonus as a result of your boss hearing about your plans. The privacy statement you quoted specifically states that the headhunter can forward your details without your consent to 'its clients'. If your company is a client of the headhunter then you cannot object, says DLA Piper¹s Makbool Javaid.

Theoretically, he adds, if you discovered that your company was not a client of the headhunter then you could make a complaint to the Information Commission stating that you suffered damage as a result of a breach of the Data Protection Act. Although you may be awarded some compensation, you would probably be drawing more attention than necessary to the fact that you want to leave.

For future reference, you have learnt the hard way that you should not register with any agency without seeing a written statement of their codes of practice, which should include a guarantee that your details will not be forwarded to anyone without your express consent.

As for your position within your current company, it is not a crime to be keeping an eye out for other opportunities. Your boss may be doing the same thing himself!

Next week's question: I am facing a disciplinary process, supposedly based on my performance, and am now on a final written warning. I have been with my company for four years and my performance had never been questioned before. Two months before it began, I passed a series of exams that usually leads to a promotion and pay rise within 3-4 months. My boss has brought up examples of poor performance, but it would be just as easy for me to bring up similar examples of supposedly poor work by my colleagues. I have not appealed against any of the disciplinary warnings to date, for fear of further compromising my position. I have been diagnosed as suffering from depression, but have gone against my doctor's advice to take time off. I think my firm may be trying to get rid of me as a cost-cutting excercise.

What should I do?

What would you advise? Send your answer to: expertadmin@efinancialcareers.com

Look out for the Experts' answer to this dilemma and readers' comments on Ask the Expert next week. If you would like to submit a question to our panel of experts,


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