Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has warned that the regulator faces a major challenge in recruiting and retaining top staff to deal with the increased workload from the new EU data laws, due to increased competition from both the public and private sector, as organisations staff up in preparation for GDPR.
The Government sanctioned the major hiring spree, which will boost the ICO’s headcount from 500 to over 700, in March this year.
However, in an interview with the Financial Times, Denham said the ICO could not prepare to implement and oversee GDPR, advise businesses on how to comply with the new regulations, and simultaneously “continue to do our day jobs” if it kept losing experts to both public and private entities because it cannot compete on pay.
She added that “data heavy companies, government organisations that need new leadership in data protection [and] large consulting firms” had been poaching her staff in anticipation of the new rules coming into effect.
“We have to grow,” she said. “We’d like our numbers to be protected and we’d like to be able to ensure that we have fair pay and compensation for our staff given the kind of expertise [we have].”
Although Denham did not reveal details of how many staff the regulator had lost, over the past year many of the ICO’s most experienced executives have departed, including director of data protection David Smith and head of operations and deputy CEO Simon Entwisle who have both retired. Meanwhile, director of freedom of information Graham Smith has taken up a position with the European Ombudsman in Brussels.
Their departures ushered in a more collective model of leadership and a much larger senior management board.
However, the regulator was forced into another rethink after the man hired to replace Enwistle as deputy commissioner – former diplomat Rob Luke – exited after just six months.
Steve Wood, previously ICO head of international strategy, succeeded Luke as deputy commissioner for policy, while James Dipple-Johnstone also joined the ICO as deputy commissioner for operations from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.
Denham’s cry for help comes despite her own admission – in March this year – that the recruitment process would not be easy. At the time, she said: “Commercial entities can pay more money than government. We need to be strategic in terms of our offering because we will never be able to match the salaries, but we can offer other benefits such as flexible working.”
Last week, it emerged that two-thirds of UK firms are hiring permanent employees and a further 64% planning to recruit interim staff to help them meet the May 2018 GDPR deadline.
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