Canada Post demands too much information for leave requests

An individual filed a complaint over Canada Post’s collection of personal information in connection with two separate applications she made for special paid leave to take care of an ailing relative.

The application form is actually intended only to guide supervisors in weighing whether to grant a request for leave. Supervisors have some discretion in how many of the questions they actually ask. In this instance, however, the complainant’s supervisor erroneously gave the complete form to the complainant herself to fill out.

The form required extensive amounts of personal information about the requester, the ill person and even third parties. For example, it asked whether any other Canada Post employee had asked for leave to take care of the same patient.

As we investigated this complaint, Canada Post told us that the Crown corporation receives about 3,000 special leave requests every year, totalling more than 125,000 hours of work.

Over the years, arbitration rulings under the union’s collective agreement have helped shape how this category of leave is administered. Those decisions now require Canada Post to collect substantial amounts of information, in order to ensure that leave requests are considered in a fair and reasonable manner.

At the same time, Canada Post is concerned about preventing fraud or misuse of this open-ended leave provision. While acknowledging the organization’s duty in that regard, we nevertheless felt that too much personal data is being collected. We were particularly concerned about questions that require a leave applicant to furnish personal information about another person.

We concluded that the complainant had been asked for more personal information than was necessary to establish her entitlement to the leave, and upheld her complaint as well founded.

We also recommended a series of measures that Canada Post could take to address privacy concerns.

The organization accepted some of the recommendations, agreeing to collect only the personal information that is absolutely necessary for the proper administration of the program. Canada Post stated, for instance, that it would no longer require the names of other individuals (third parties) who might have been involved in caring for the sick person.

The organization also agreed to update its written procedural guidelines that supervisors must follow when an employee requests a leave, in order to ensure that only required information is collected.

However, the organization insisted on continuing to collect information on other family members working at Canada Post, in order to ensure that two or more employees were not abusing the benefit by requesting the same leave.

In the absence of proof of extensive abuse, we continue to have reservations about this data collection. We have encouraged the organization to find less privacy intrusive ways to address its concerns about fraud in weighing leave requests.

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