Can employers snoop on their staff?

January 11, 2023

By Owen John

Monitoring employee activity is more and more common in today’s workplace, arguably even more so since the covid-19 pandemic and the rise in hybrid working. But how far can employers actually go when it comes to snooping on staff?

In light of recent guidance published by the Information Commissioner’s Office, our employment team have come up with all you need to know about employee monitoring.

Can I monitor my employees?

Yes, as long as there’s a lawful basis for the monitoring. The main thing for employers to remember here is that they need to be balanced in their approach – i.e. they can’t interfere too much. The goal of keeping an eye on employees through monitoring needs to be balanced with the level of intrusion it will cause to employees. This assessment becomes a data protection / GDPR issue, so let us know if you need any help or advice in taking any decisions about monitoring.

Must I tell the employees about the monitoring?

Yes, that is crucial. Most employers do this by including wording in an internal data protection policy or data privacy notice and making those documents easily accessible to staff – e.g. in a staff handbook. Our employment team have significant experience of drafting these documents and ensuring that employers are compliant in the way that they inform staff about monitoring.

Can I monitor employees who are working from home?

Again, yes, but as long as the monitoring is balanced against the individual’s privacy (i.e. is not excessive) and the employees are informed about the monitoring (e.g. by way of a data protection policy or privacy notice).

What form can employee monitoring take?

  • Checking records of telephone numbers dialled / calls received;
  • Opening emails / listening to voicemails;
  • Checking records of times logged into computer systems;
  • Reviewing web history;
  • CCTV cameras;
  • Tracking devices in vehicles.

Our top tips in summary:

  1. Tell your employees about any monitoring that you are carrying out, and how far it goes – for example in a data protection policy or data privacy notice;
  2. Explain to your employees why monitoring is necessary and the legal basis for doing so – again this can be done via a data protection policy or data privacy notice;
  3. Don’t use any personal data collected via employee monitoring for any reason other than for their proper purpose;
  4. Review your current monitoring systems to ensure that they comply with the update ICO guidance – get in touch and we’d be happy to review these for you.

If you need any advice with navigating any of the issues raised above, please contact Owen John on ojohn@darwingray.com / 02920 829 118 for a free initial chat to see how we can help you.

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