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Employers and the Impact of the Health Information Amendment Act

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Employers and the Impact of the Health Information Amendment Act

Workforce Development - Provincial Policy

The development of an electronic health system has the potential to be a competitive advantage for Alberta’s health care system. To be effective, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC) recognizes that health information must be collected and integrated into Alberta Netcare and that the Health Information Amendment Act facilitates the handling of this information. 

As employers, chamber members recognize and respect the priority our employees place on the privacy of their personal information, including health information. As such, Alberta employers are particularly concerned with the possibility of being named as custodians of health information, which would authorize them to collect, use, and disclose health information of their employees, and the strains that such a decision would put on the employer-employee relationship. 

ACC is concerned that the amendments in the act open up the possibility of making those employers holding detailed employment records, those providing staff with health and wellness programs, or those conducting alcohol and drug testing programs, custodians of health information – possibly exposing them to fines of up to $500,000 for non-compliance with requests for health information by the minister. 

One of the intentions of the proposed legislation is to bring privately funded providers of health services into the custodial arena. This is an appropriate goal for the system, as it would fill a key health information gap; however, some in the business community are concerned that employment records could qualify as health information and that they could be named as custodians of that information.

As employee records are already subject to the Personal Information Protection Act, ACC is concerned that compliance with the amended Health Information Act may result in noncompliance with other legislation. The resulting ambiguity in the legal framework surrounding the employer-employee relationship will almost certainly lead to litigation, thus creating unwarranted tension in labour relations and driving up the costs of doing business in Alberta.

Recommendations

The Alberta Chambers of Commerce recommends the Government of Alberta

  1. Ensure information collected by employers as a personal employee information, as defined in the Personal Information Protection Act, is explicitly excluded as health information.
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