Warning from top lawyer for companies to not take employee monitoring 'too far'

An established employment law lawyer, has given a stark warning to companies that use workplace surveillance to monitor their employees to not take it “a step too far”.

Vanessa Bell, head of employment law at Prettys, an Ispwich-based law firm condemns these acts and states that they could “have a negative effect” on employees’ wellbeing.

Ms Bell believes it is far from uncommon that firms now record “staff telephone calls, monitor emails, log the addresses of websites visited and record activity on CCTV.”

She also thinks it is important that employers’ actions remain lawful as well as considering the potential impact on workers.

Ms Bell said:

Despite it being around for a while, we have noticed an increased use of email, internet and telephone monitoring.

More employers are also taking it upon themselves to check in on employees’ social media platforms and regularly monitor the posts being uploaded.

There have been examples of some employers using software to monitor the whereabouts of staff in the office and even look at how long people spend in break-out rooms.

She explained that companies need to make it clear to their employees that they are being monitored and that in employment law cases the court will always consider if the employee has enjoyed a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Emma Loveday Hill, senior associate within Prettys’ data protection team, said:

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) states that employers need to have clear policies and procedures in place when it comes to the surveillance of employees and protecting their data. Except in extreme cases, staff must understand that their activities might be monitored.

We now live in a world where data is being processed by lots of devices and the ICO is constantly updating its codes of practice to reflect these developments. Employers need to regularly check to ensure they are complying with them.

Earlier in August 2019, research by Gartner, a global research and advisory firm for businesses, revealed that 22 per cent of organisations around the world are using employee-movement data.

Additionally, just under a fifth of businesses (17 per cent) are monitoring statistics on how employees use their work computers and 16 per cent are utilising data on Outlook and digital calendar usage.

Gartner stated that this was significant as privacy is a “growing concern for individuals, organisations and governments.”





Darius is the editor of HRreview. He has previously worked as a finance reporter for the Daily Express. He studied his journalism masters at Press Association Training and graduated from the University of York with a degree in History.