Employee surveys provide valuable information about the working atmosphere, the flow of processes, and possible improvements. However, data protection must also be observed by the employer in the case of employee surveys. Here you can find out what needs to be observed.

Legal basis in data protection for employee surveys

An employee survey could involve the processing of employees' personal data. If this were the case, there would have to be a legal basis for the processing.

If an employment relationship is involved, Section 26 of the BDSG always comes into question. This regulates that the employer may process personal data of employees if this is necessary for the implementation of the employment relationship.

While an employee survey to optimize processes and uncover grievances can make it easier to improve the work climate and productivity, it is not required to carry out the employment relationship. However, it is not necessary for the performance of the employment relationship. § Section 26 BDSG is therefore not relevant.

However, the processing of employee data in the context of an employee survey could become permissible through appropriate consent from each employee (Art. 6 (1) p. 1 lit. a DSGVO). Consent within the meaning of the GDPR must be given voluntarily, in an informed manner, expressly, revocably and for a specific case. If the employer asks for participation in an employee survey and, in addition, for consent to process the personal data to be disclosed therein, employees might quickly feel pressured. Many may fear that it will have a negative impact on their employment relationship if they refuse to give their consent. Consent given under such pressure would not be voluntary and would therefore not comply with data protection regulations.

Anonymous employee surveys comply with data protection

Accordingly, it is recommended that employee surveys be conducted anonymously in accordance with data protection requirements. Anonymous means that no personal data is processed. Not only does this make it easier for employees to answer honestly, so that the employer also receives useful answers, but such an employee survey also complies with data protection.

Nevertheless, there are a few things to keep in mind: The survey must be designed in such a way that the questions are targeted. There must be no indiscriminate questioning of irrelevant information. Above all, the questions must not result in the answering employee being identifiable after all. If this were the case, the survey would no longer be anonymous in the sense of data protection. For this reason, questions should also be used that can be answered by simply checking a box. Finally, the questionnaire can possibly also be assigned to a person by handwriting. Electronic questionnaires are particularly suitable for this purpose. In this case, however, additional attention must be paid to the security of the software used.


Designing an employee survey in compliance with data protection regulations is not too complicated if the guidelines mentioned here are observed. In any case, employers should pay attention to transparency during the creation and implementation and, if necessary, involve the works council and the data protection officer at an early stage.

If you have any questions or need support on this or any other topic relating to data protection, our experts will be happy to advise you.

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