Do your employers monitor your activities whilst you are working?
Believe it or not, it is their right. As per the law, employers have the right to monitor workers. They can monitor the workplace in the following ways:
- by opening mail or email
- by recording on CCTV cameras
- by using software to check email
- by checking phone logs and recording calls
- by checking websites, you have visited
- by making videos outside the workplace
- by getting information from credit reference agencies
- by collecting information through the point of sale terminals, like supermarket checkouts for checking the performance of individual staff
However, there are sets of rules about the circumstances and how an employer can monitor the workplace, according to the data protection law.
Employers must let you know that monitoring is being carried out. They should clarify what is monitored and why it is necessary to monitor – except in very limited circumstances.
They may not need the consent of staff if they are able to justify monitoring once they have carried out a proper impact assessment.
But, they should:
- be clear why they are monitoring workers
- know the benefits they will gain from the act of monitoring
- be aware of any adverse impacts on staff
- ensure if there are any, less intrusive, alternatives to inspect
Monitoring electronic communications
Your employer is legally authorized to invigilate internet, phone, and email in the workplace in the following situations:
- if the monitoring is linked to the business
- the equipment has been provided partly or wholly for work by the employer
- the employer has informed you that your communications will be monitored
Your employer can monitor your electronic communications for any of the following reasons:
- to prevent or detect crime
- to ensure facts relevant to the business
- to make sure you are following the procedures
- to assess the quality of your work
- to check if you are not making unauthorised use of telecommunications systems
- to ensure whether electronic systems are operating effectively
- to prevent computer viruses entering the system
- to make certain that an email or phone call you have received is relevant to the business.
Remember your employer can open your emails or listen to voicemails but is not allowed to record your calls.
Some employers use spy cameras or hidden audio tools to monitor their workers without informing them. This is illegal. According to employment law solicitors, secret monitoring is not allowed in private areas at the workplace, such as staff toilets, unless there it is the case of a serious crime – for example, dealing drugs.
Employer’s policy on monitoring
In general, employers should draft a code of conduct to cover workplace monitoring. If such code or policy is agreed, it will form part of your employment contract. This means that an employer is allowable for monitoring your activities. And your activities could be the subject of disciplinary action if the employer finds you using workplace equipment in a way that is not permissible in your employment contract.
What to do if you’re not happy with monitoring at the workplace
If you are unhappy with the way your employer is not legally allowed to monitor your activities, you must seek expert advice. In that case, you can:
- talk to your employer about the monitoring
- try to persuade them to stop. But, if you are still working for the same employer, you need to assure whether or not raising this issue will put your job at risk.
- take out a grievance against your employer
- Read your contract of employment, staff handbook or anywhere else where your employer might have a policy about monitoring
- if you are a member of the trade union, ask them to help you
If your employer isn’t following the law, you have the right to ask the Information Commissioner to assess whether your employer is meeting their obligations under data protection law.
The Information Commissioner is responsible for supervising and enforcing the law on data protection. He/she is authorised to advise both workers and employers on their rights and duties under the Data Protection Act.
If the Commissioner finds that your employer is not sticking to the law, an enforcement notice can be issued, or recommendations can be made to the employer. Remember, you’re not eligible for any compensation from the Information Commissioner.
In summary, if you have an issue with the way your employer is monitoring you, seek help from an experienced employment law solicitor. You can search for lawyers online as almost every professional and good employment law solicitor is available online.
Our Employment Law Solicitors can assist with all types of claims and where possible on a no win, no fee basis. Naturally, we pride ourselves on providing the best possible service to the highest standards, we offer employment law advice on all problems. Call us on 0800 756 6605 or 020 3923 4777
Tom Street qualified as a solicitor in 2003 and has over 20 years experience in employment and litigation law. He studied law at the University of Manchester before undertaking the legal practice course at the College of Law in Guildford, going on to complete his legal training at a firm in Chancery Lane, London. Once fully qualified, he moved to a niche litigation practice in the City of London.
In 2010, Tom set up his own legal practice, Tom Street & Co Solicitors and as part of this, in accordance with his strongly held objective to provide everyone with an easy pathway to justice he established the online portals Do I Have A Case? and Tribunal Claim. These websites are trading names of Tom Street & Co Solicitors.