What are the implications of employee monitoring?

The move to more home and hybrid working arrangement brought about as a result of the pandemic has meant that employers have had to consider how they monitor and supervise employees using technology, including the supervision of emails and files, the use of webcams on work computers, as well tracking tools.

This additional monitoring of employees brings with it a raft of additional considerations that employers need to be conscious of.

Keeping watch

According to a recent survey by BritainThinks for the TUC, out of 2,209 workers in England and Wales, 60 per cent said they had been under surveillance or monitored at work in 2021, compared to 53 per cent the year before.

In addition employees reported an increase in monitoring of staff devices (24 per cent in 2021 compared to 20 per cent in 2020) and monitoring of phone calls (14 per cent compared to 11 per cent) than in the year before.

What are the issues?

Firstly, employee monitoring could result in a damage of trust between employers and their staff, which can lead to poor staff morale, resignations and potentially claims for constructive unfair dismissal.

If the monitoring is done without warning employees, the employer could be in breach of Article 8 (Right to a Private Life) of the European Convention of Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998.

Employers should also be aware of any issues with the technology itself.  They should be conscious of report of faults with it whether the results could be unreliable and/or discriminatory, so as to avoid claims under the Equality Act 2010.

Finally, Employers must consider their obligations under the Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR.  Thy should consider if they have the right to collect and process the personal data and are their privacy notices adequate.

How should employers proceed?

If employee surveillance is something that an employer does choose to pursue, they should be vigilant throughout the process.

Most importantly, employees should be informed before any monitoring takes place, always keep the level of monitoring to the absolute minimum necessary and review whether the need to monitor continues to exist.

For help and advice on employment matters, contact our expert team.

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