Is Your Employer Allowed To Monitor your Activity at Work?

September 18, 2015 by

There are many ways that an employer can monitor your activities in the workplace, and they are allowed to do so by the law. While there are limitations as to how they can and can’t screen your work, they are allowed to do the following:

Monitor Employees

  • Record on CCTV cameras
  • Open any mail sent to the office
  • Check logs of websites visited
  • Use automated applications to check e-mail
  • Check phone logs and record phone calls
  • Record video of the area outside the workplace
  • Get information from credit reference agencies
  • Collect information via the point of sale terminals used to assess the performance of different operators

It is not always obvious that you’re being monitored, especially since CCTV recordings are rarely reviewed, except in instances when there is a security breach or other concern. However, all the mentioned forms of monitoring are actually covered by the data protection law. The law does not prohibit monitoring in the workplace, though it stipulates the circumstances and manner in which the monitoring should be done.

Some of the reasons why an employer may choose to monitor the staff include:

  • To automate the process of tracking employees during job time
  • To check the location of mobile workers on a Google map
  • To safeguard the employees, like in the event of violence or for health and safety reasons
  • To protect business interests, like to prevent theft, crime, or employee misconduct
  • To comply with regulatory and legal obligations
  • To identify training gaps
  • To ensure quality customer services and assess and improve productivity

Many large organizations now have internet and social media policies that may include monitoring employees’ usage of the internet during work hours, or access to networking websites. They also have IT and communications policies providing guidelines on how employees should use their systems.

Before investing in monitoring systems, employers should:

  • Identify the reasons for monitoring staff and the potential benefits
  • Identify the likely negative impact of monitoring on your staff (impact assessment)
  • Consider any like alternatives to monitoring that are less intrusive
  • Workout whether monitoring your staff is justified with careful consideration of the above

In most cases, employers should take the appropriate steps to inform their staff that they will start monitoring, what will be monitored, and the reasons why it is important. After carrying out proper impact assessment, employers can be better able to justify the monitoring without requiring the consent of individual staff members.

The right to privacy

Even though there are laws touching on organizational monitoring, there exist implied legal obligations of trust and confidence between an employer and employees. Employers should only act with reasonable and proper cause, so as they don’t destroy the relationship of mutual trust between themselves and their staff.

If employees feel that monitoring at work is intrusive, it is important that employers identify ways to strike a balance between their own interests, and the legitimate concerns and expectations to privacy of their staff.

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