As a central government employee, you have to strive to carry out your duties with respect for the individual and meet the requirements for non-discrimination and consideration of personal privacy. Equality, gender equality, compassion and integrity are key words in fulfilling these requirements.
"Public power shall be exercised with respect for the equal worth of all and for the freedom and dignity of the private person"- Chapter 1, Section 2, first paragraph of the Instrument of Government
The principle of respect for the equal worth of all and for the freedom and dignity of the individual are part of what is called the statement of objectives in the Instrument of Government. The Treaty on European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union contain similar forms of words. Detailed rules about what is to be done to attain the objectives of this principle are, for example, set out in the Discrimination Act.
Discrimination means that a person is treated less favourably than someone else on subjective grounds. The aim of respect is that the public institutions will counter any instances of someone being discriminated against in their contacts with the authorities. The Instrument of Government says that no one may be treated unfavourably on grounds of gender, colour, national or ethnic origin, linguistic or religious affiliation, functional disability, sexual orientation or age. The Discrimination Act also gives transgender identity or expression as a ground of discrimination.
The Discrimination Act covers you as a public employee when, for example, you give the public information, guidance or advice. It also applies to other contacts you have with the public in your work. If you breach this ban, your employer may be required to pay compensation for discrimination. A person who is discriminated against may, at the same time, be a victim of a criminal offence, for example some form of hate crime, agitation against a population group or a sexual offence.
As a central government employee, you need to be able to identify and counter situations where discrimination may arise. Authorities also need to make particular efforts to treat people equally and to not treat anyone unfavourably on incorrect grounds.
The protection of privacy is included in the Instrument of Government, the European Convention and the EU Charter of Rights. This is expressed by saying that individuals have the right to private and family life. The protection applies in relation to the public institutions and means that authorities may not intrude indiscriminately on a person’s private life. Without consent to do so, authorities are, for instance, prohibited from keeping registers of inhabitants on the basis of their political views or ethnicity. For a breach of someone’s privacy to be permitted, it must be judged to be necessary in a democratic society to, for example, maintain law and order.
It is of central importance for privacy protection that authorities and other organisations handle and process personal data correctly. New rules have applied since 25 May 2018 through the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. The basic idea is that personal data, i.e. all kinds of information that can be associated with a living natural person, may only be collected for special legitimate purposes.
The starting point is that sensitive personal data must not be processed at all. This may, for instance, be data about ethnic origin, religious conviction or health and sex life. Sensitive data may only be processed in certain circumstances; for example if a person has lost consciousness and personal data must be processed to check their blood group and medical history. Privacy-sensitive data of this kind are often protected by secrecy, which sometimes also applies between authorities.