3rd November 2022
Recent advances in technology mean that there are now numerous ways to monitor employees, including via a webcam on staff computers or by checking browser histories, email content and phone records. Productivity-tracking software offers a raft of ways to assess how employees spend their working day. Employers can also keep tabs on their employees’ movements through the working day using CCTV, vehicle location tracking, dash cameras and devices, or access cards which track employees’ movements in the workplace.
‘Employers are spoilt for choice by the range of ways to monitor employees and their productivity,’ says Sarah Everton, a solicitor in the employment team with Myers & Co Solicitors. ‘However, just because these forms of monitoring are readily available does not mean that using them is risk free.’
Sarah Everton runs through the pros and cons and explains the numerous legal and policy considerations for employers.
Monitoring is often justified in order to improve productivity, as a means of providing information for workflow analysis or as part of risk management.
Some software allows businesses to see where individuals or whole teams are taking longer than expected on particular tasks, and this information can be used to identify opportunities to improve processes, divert resources, or indicate where training is needed.
There are many ways in which employees can create liabilities for their employer, such as poor customer service, and most of us are familiar with the recorded message warning that a call may be ‘recorded for training purposes’. Other risks include unauthorised disclosure of confidential information, copyright infringement, employee negligence or carelessly handling personal data about other people in breach of data protection law.
If your employees know that they are or can be monitored, this can act as a deterrent to behaviour that could cause trouble. Records produced through employee monitoring can provide crucial evidence in disciplinary investigations.
Employers are usually liable for the behaviour of the employee when they are at work, or there is a sufficient connection to work. For instance, the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Moonsar v Fiveways Express Transport Ltd , found that male employees looking at porn at work in the same room as a female colleague was sex discrimination.
Some employers prefer to use little or no employee monitoring, citing that it leads to an erosion of trust by failing to ‘treat employees like grown-ups’.
In some cases, employees may experience increased work-related stress from feeling that someone is constantly looking over their shoulder. Employers worry that monitoring may have an impact on employees’ health and wellbeing, particularly for those who are already experiencing poor mental health, as well as being damaging to recruitment and retention.
There are several legal frameworks which need to be considered if you intend to introduce employee monitoring:
A cornerstone of lawful monitoring is to ensure that employees are made aware of the monitoring, the extent of the monitoring and how the information will be used. This should be clearly set out in relevant policies, particularly on internet and email use. We can advise you on the contents of the policy, ensuring employees are aware of it and effectively implementing it.
We can help you safely implement employee monitoring to ensure that these important tools work for your business. For further information, please contact Sarah Everton in the employment team on 01782 525012 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.