Data protection: does your early years setting need to register?


Have you recently received a letter from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)? The ICO has informed the Alliance that it is contacting educational establishments who have not yet registered with them about the need to register and pay an annual fee.

We want to reassure our readers that this not a scam and remind you of the rules on registering with the ICO.

What is the ICO?
The ICO is the UK’s data protection regulator. All businesses that process any personal information are required to register with them and pay an annual fee to the ICO – unless they are exempt.

This fee is usually £40 or £60 a year depending on the size of your business, although large organisations will need to pay £2,900.

Why do I need to pay to register?
The registration fee helps to pay for the ICO’s work in ensuring that data is handled lawfully. Failing to register and pay the fee could result in a fine of up to £4,000.

Registering with the ICO will also help demonstrate to families that you are taking data protection seriously and care about keeping their information safe.

How do I pay?
Visit and click ‘first time payment’ or ‘renew’, whichever applies to you. You’ll need to complete an online application, which will take around 15 minutes before sending the payment. To save time and hassle going forward, you can set up a direct debit, which will also save you £5 on your usual fee.

My setting is exempt from paying the fee – what should I do if I have received a letter from the ICO?
If you don’t need to pay, visit to let the ICO know why you are exempt from paying. If you’re not sure whether or not you are exempt, visit to find out.

We are a not-for-profit organisation, do we have to pay?
Some not-for-profit organisations are not required to pay, but only in very limited circumstances.

If you are processing personal data solely for the purposes of establishing or maintaining membership or support of a non-for-profit organisation, or to administer the activities of your members – and if you do not process any other personal data – then you are exempt from paying the fee.

However, this is unlikely to apply to not-for-profit childcare providers, who will be processing the personal data of the children they look after. Therefore, a not-for-profit childcare provider would still need to pay the fee to the ICO.

Are we exempt if we only use paperwork and no electronic databases?
If none of your processing is carried out on a computer, then you do not have to pay the data protection fee. This includes any type of computer – laptop, desktop, tablet or cloud computing. It also includes other types of equipment which, although not normally described as computers, have some ability to process automatically. Examples include automatic retrieval systems for audio and visual systems, electronic flexi-time systems, telephone logging equipment, CCTV systems and smartphones.

In other words, if the only data you process is manual data – help on paper and not stored electronically – then you do not have to pay a fee to the ICO. But if any of your data is stored or processed electronically, then you will be required to pay the fee.

Do childminders and small settings need to pay the fee?
If you are processing personal data for anything other than personal, family or household affairs, then you must pay the fee to the ICO, no matter how small the organisation or how few people you employ. This means that small settings and childminders, even if operating out of their own homes, must pay the appropriate fee.

There are three different tiers of fee, based on how many members of staff you have and your annual turnover. Micro-organisations – those with a turnover of less than £632,000 per year and no more than 10 members of staff – are in Tier 1, which means their fee is £40 a year.

Find out more
Visit the ICO’s website for more information, including a FAQs and self-assessment checklists as well as a dedicated advice line for small organisations. You can also sign up to the ICO’s newsletter for regular updates on guidance and details of their latest webinars. or call 0303 123 1113.