There are many reasons why monitoring employees is a good business practice. However, employees do have a degree of privacy and it is important for the employer to get the balance right.
How businesses can monitor employees
There are numerous ways that employees can be monitored, watched and reviewed daily, through:
- call monitoring and recording,
- reviewing emails sent and received,
- monitoring internet use and looking at the websites visited, and time spent on these websites,
- tracking GPS on company cars and mobile phones,
- watching CCTV footage
Given the recent increase in the number of employees working from home, employers may be tempted to turn to accessing web cams on company computers and installing screen recording software.
Benefits of monitoring employees
While monitoring employees can have potential benefits such as ensuring that employees are following the rules and being productive, they will be less likely to waste company time as they know they are being monitored.
The use of CCTV can reduce theft and ensure that safe working practices are being followed.
Being complaint with Data Protection Legislation, which states employees spend more time than expected allowing the employer to review the process and improve upon them and ensure that work can be distributed fairly among the team.
Check out our YouTube video on monitoring employees
Drawbacks of monitoring employees
However, monitoring employees at work can also have its drawbacks as it can be seen as the employer having a lack of trust in the employee or the employee may feel that their privacy has been violated.
As monitoring employees can gather a lot of personal data, employers must ensure that they are consistently being compliant with the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 1998, which state that monitoring and surveillance must be necessary, justified and proportionate.
Before undertaking any form of monitoring, the employer should undertake an impact assessment and keep a written record of this for future reference.
There are limited circumstances when an employer can monitor employees without letting them know and this would apply if you suspect the employee is committing a crime or if it is reasonable to believe that by letting the employee know would make it harder to detect the crime.
Businesses must only covertly monitor for a specific investigation and stop monitoring as soon as the investigation is concluded.
When carrying out monitoring in the workplace it is important to be transparent with employees on how they are being monitored, through having clear policies and procedures in place which should be in the employee handbook.
Explain to the employee why they are being monitored and how their data will be protected from misuse.
ICO guidance on monitoring employees
ICO has drafted guidance for monitoring at work, the guidance outlined is to protect the GDPR of employees. The guidance is currently in public consultation which remains open for relevant stakeholders until 11th January 2023 and once approved it will replace ICO’s Employment Practices Code 2011.
Companies will need to be more transparent when monitoring employees such as recording the days employees are coming into the office each week. If employees aren’t aware of the company monitoring when the employee attends the office, the company may be in breach of UK GPDR
The updated guidance includes:
- Monitoring of timekeeping
- Webcams and screenshots
- Productivity software monitoring how employees spend their time
- Keystroke monitoring to record keyword activity
- Following internet usage and keystrokes
Is your business considering monitoring employees for managing employee performance or suspicious an employee is stealing from the business? Our HR consultants are here to help you.
FAQs on monitoring employees
In the UK, employers can monitor employees at work, but they must adhere to the Data Protection Act 2018 and respect privacy rights under the Human Rights Act 1998. They should have a valid reason, like ensuring security or productivity, and must be transparent about their monitoring practices.
Employee trust and morale can be impacted by excessive monitoring. It’s essential for employers to strike a balance, ensuring that monitoring is both legal and ethically conducted.
Employees may become more productive when knowing they are being monitored, as they are more motivated to stay on task avoiding non-work-related tasks/activities. Improved compliance from employees as they are more likely to follow guidelines and company policies when being monitored due to being caught out more easily.
Monitoring employees constantly may lead to increasing stress and anxiety levels, this will decrease job satisfaction and raise health concerns. Decrease in innovation as employees feel they are unable to take risks because of repercussions from constant oversight. Furthermore, a break in trust between employees and management has an impact on company culture.
If it is not conducted in compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Human Rights Act 1998, it may potentially lead to legal penalties. Employees have the right to privacy, if monitoring is deemed to be excessive or covert this may lead to legal challenges as well as reputational damage.
It may break the trust between employers and employees, making employees feel undervalued and impacting morale. Furthermore, if the business is collecting and storing data increases the risk of breaches – any breaches may have legal and financial penalties.
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