information please contact George Davies Solicitors on 0161-236-8992)
you suspect your employees are spending more time surfing the net or
visiting inappropriate web sites, sending and receiving personal emails
or downloading offensive material than they are carrying out their
and email are now widely used in a variety of businesses, but
unfortunately due to the ease of use many employees abuse the system
resulting in disciplinary action in most cases. As a result, monitoring
employees at work is common practice amongst many employers. Monitoring
can take place in a variety of ways, including examining emails,
recording phone calls or listening to voicemail messages, examining web
sites that have been visited or installing CCTV cameras.
not however quite as simple as it sounds. Monitoring can be extremely
intrusive into people’s lives. Employees are entitled to keep their
personal lives private and expect some degree of privacy at work. A
claim under the Human Rights Act in respect of someone’s right to
privacy at work can be included in an Employment Tribunal claim to
support another claim being brought, such as unfair dismissal. Extreme
care must be taken so that the employee and employer relationship of
trust and confidence is not interfered with. It is therefore essential
that employers comply with the Data Protection Act if employees are
being monitored and information is collected.
In short, the
Monitoring at Work Code and the Data Protection Act do not prohibit
monitoring at work, but there are restrictions that must be adhered to
regarding the way it is carried out. Monitoring must be justified and
should only take place in limited circumstances and under strict
importance is that all employees must be made aware of any monitoring
that takes place, the reasons for it and to what extent. The best way
of communicating this to employees is by introducing relevant policies,
which should be handed to all employees. Policies should include: use
of telephone, email and Internet. Any such policy should state the type
of monitoring being undertaken, when or if employees are allowed to use
the telephone, email and Internet for private usage, when monitoring is
being carried out and what, if any, disciplinary action will follow if
the policy is breached.
wishing to introduce monitoring into the workplace must consider the
impact it would have on staff and customers. It is vital that you
consider how intrusive your choice of monitoring will be on your
employee’s private lives and their working relationship with you. You
should also determine the purpose and benefits of such monitoring,
including its effectiveness and consider any alternative methods. You
will also need to take steps to decide who will see the information and
how it will be kept secure and to what extent your employee’s will be
made aware of it. Care should be taken not to open emails that clearly
show they are private or personal. If you are to check the email
accounts or voicemails of workers, you should make sure they are aware
of this. The number of people with access to personal data should be
kept to an absolute minimum.
employees without their knowledge is known as “covert monitoring” and
should only be done in exceptional circumstances where criminal activity
is suspected and to notify the suspect would hinder investigations.
Senior management should always be involved in such monitoring.
In order to
comply with the DPA 1998, the Code recommends the following steps:
the person responsible for monitoring and ensure a mechanism is set
up for checking that procedures are being carried out.
employees are made aware of it and that it is taking place for a
clear and justified purpose.
policies on e-mail, telephone calls and Internet use.
employees and customers/clients know about any cameras, including
when and why they are in place.
purpose of monitoring, its benefits and its justification
adverse impact it could have on employees and others, such as
alternative methods to monitoring and the type and extent of your
obligations arising from monitoring, such as compiling new policies
and setting up processes to secure records
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