DUTY OF CONFIDENTIALITY
DUTY OF CONFIDENTIALITY
Employees are subject to a far-reaching duty of confidentiality with respect to their employer's business. The manner in which this is formulated differs between public and private employment. In the public sector the constitutional principle of open access to information prevails under the 1974 Instrument of Government, and public employees can be made subject to a duty of confidentiality only on the basis of statutory provisions. The 1980 Official Secrets Act contains mandatory and comprehensive rules on such a duty in public activities. However, the duty of confidentiality imposed on public employees as specified in the Official Secrets Act is very limited in comparison with that incumbent on private-sector employees, for whom this duty is implicit in their obligation to exhibit loyalty towards their employer and is extensive even where there is no express agreement on secrecy (see duty of loyalty). In accordance with general rules private-sector employees do, nevertheless, possess a certain right to criticize. It follows from the 1990 Trade Secrets Act (see duty of loyalty) that employees are sometimes justified in betraying a secret in order to unmask improper or unsatisfactory situations. As a general rule the duty of confidentiality incumbent on private-sector employees ceases when the employment relationship concerned has ended, but if an express agreement has been entered into regarding secrecy or non-competition the obligation on the employee continues to apply as specified in that agreement (see duty of loyalty), although such agreements can be moderated or set aside entirely on the basis of the 1915 Contracts Act. Statutory rules are laid down for particular occupational categories such as members of the Swedish Bar Association in private practice, bank employees and employees in private healthcare and company medical services. The 1977 Work Environment Act contains rules on a duty of confidentiality for anyone who is furnished with information pertaining to health and safety at work. In the case of public employees the rules applicable in this latter respect laid down in the Official Secrets Act differ somewhat from those in the Work Environment Act. The rules in the Work Environment Act relate to employers and those acting as their representatives and to those employee representatives having the capacity of safety representative, regional safety representative, safety officer and safety committee member, but also to others representing the employee side in work-environment activities such as members of work adaptation groups and groups for the adaptation of work or rehabilitation. Company medical services are also covered by rules in the legislation on personnel in healthcare and medical care. Anyone found to be in breach of a duty of confidentiality laid down by statute or other statutory enactment can be held guilty of an offence under the 1962 Criminal Code. Rules on a duty of confidentiality are laid down in a number of other labour-law statutes, notably the 1976 Co-Determination Act, 1974 Employment Promotion Act and 1974 Workplace Union Representatives Act and the legislation on employee representation on the board, European Works Councils and sick pay.
Please note: the European industrial relations glossaries were compiled between 1991 and 2003 and are not updated. For current material see the European industrial relations dictionary.