As an employer you may have looked at monitoring staff at work for various reasons. The Data Protection Act doesn’t prevent employers from monitoring workers, but you must remember that workers are entitled to some privacy at work. You must tell your employees about any monitoring arrangements and the reason for it.
It is advisable to have written policies and procedures in place regarding monitoring at work. Monitoring shouldn’t be excessive and should be justified. Staff should be told what information will be recorded and how long it will be kept. However, if you want to monitor workers by collecting or using information, the Data Protection Act will apply. Therefore, Any information collected through monitoring should be kept secure.
Monitoring staff at work may be needed for a variety of reasons. It can be used to safeguard employees, for example to ensure workers aren’t at risk from unsafe working practices. In some sectors you may have a legal or regulatory need to carry out some monitoring. The information gathered through monitoring should only be used for the purpose it was carried out for. Unless it leads to the discovery of other things such as a breach of health and safety.
Ways to Monitor
You as the employer may monitor staff at work in various ways.
These can include:
- listening in on telephone calls
- looking at use of email
- checking company emails and web monitoring.
- looking at website visits on company computers
- bag searches
Although you don’t have to allow workers to use of phone, email or internet for personal use, many employers will allow some access. This is usually only the case if it doesn’t interfere with their work. If you do decide to monitor this kind of use, the workers should be clearly informed and given the reason why the monitoring will be carried out.
It is also advisable to have procedures in place setting out what is and isn’t allowed within your workplace. You may decide to ban the looking of some websites on your computers because of the content.
You will need to tell workers:
- if they are being monitored
- what counts as a reasonable amount of personal emails and phone calls (if allowed to make such calls and emails)
- if personal calls and e mails are not allowed.
These procedures should be made clear and understood by all workers. If a worker does not comply with the policy and procedures, they may be liable to disciplinary action.
CCTV monitoring can be used in the workplace for a number of reasons. However, if CCTV is installed, you as the employer need to make sure the employees are aware it. Therefore it is best practice to clearly display signs to say where the locations of the cameras are. Workers should also be given the reason for the monitoring.
CCTV signs should:
- be clear, visible and readable
- contain details of the purpose of the surveillance and who to contact about the scheme
- include contact details such as website address, telephone number or e mail address
Under the Data Protection Act, if the employer gives a reason for the cameras, for example to prevent theft, the employer cannot then use the footage for another reason. For example, recording entry and exit of workers from the workplace.
If you, as the employer, intend to carry out bag searches, a workplace policy must be in place that informs employees that bags and purses may be subject to searches. Employers must have a legitimate work-related reason for carrying out searches.
It’s very rare that you would need to carry out monitoring in secret, without the staff being told they are being monitored. However, you must have a genuine reason to carry out covert monitoring, such as criminal activities or malpractice. Monitoring must be obtained as quickly as possible, and only as part of a specific investigation. Therefore, the monitoring must stop when the investigation has finished.
If you wish to know more about your rights to monitoring staff in the workplace or how to handle misuse of emails, computers and internet at work, then call Metis HR now on 01706 565 332 or email us to arrange a confidential, no obligation initial consultation.
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. We specialise in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses.