Many employees understand that their employer will be able to monitor them at work in order to establish whether the employee is right for the role, is complying with the employer’s policies and procedures and to provide any training to the employee to help them in their role.
This type of monitoring usually takes the form of monitoring emails, internet use, telephone calls and CCTV if applicable, as well as generally reviewing how an employee works.
However, employees would expect and need to be informed of the type of monitoring the employer will undertake and the reasons why the monitoring is required, to ensure they comply with data protection legislation.
When the pandemic hit, many employees were required to work from home and this caused some employers to re-evaluate how they monitored employees, as they were so used to being able to keep an eye on them within the office. Unfortunately, this led to some employers taking extreme measures to monitor their employees, and webcams are being used (in some cases) to monitor employees throughout their working day.
Other less intrusive, methods have also been implemented including movement sensors and recording of keyboard strokes and mouse movements. However, such methods are likely to lead to problems as employees will reach the conclusion that they are not trusted and look for work elsewhere with a more trusting and less intrusive employer!
Due to the new technology being used to monitor employees, the trade union Prospect, is calling for stronger regulations and is requesting the government make it illegal to monitor home workers through their webcams except where employees are taking part in calls.
The research conducted by Prospect suggests that monitoring of home workers has increased since April and shows that employers appear to be monitoring employees aged between 18-34 the most. Not only could employers be breaching GDPR, but they could also be indirectly discriminating against younger workers on the assumption they are more likely to abuse home working.
In addition, the ICO is advising that employers ensure their employees are aware of how they monitor them and the reasons why it is happening, whether it be in the office or at home. They are also urging employers to consider the negative impact monitoring could have upon their employees before implementing monitoring technology.
Further, the ICO is also updating their employment practices guidance to address the changes in data protection legislation and the new ways employers use technology and interact with staff.
It is important that employers’ internal policies and procedures confirm how an employee will be monitored, as well as explaining why it is necessary and how the information will be used. For instance, if you would rely on the monitoring within a disciplinary process, then an employee needs to be made aware of this or you risk the disciplinary process being unfair, which could lead to a successful claim against you for unfair dismissal.
I would recommend that you review your policies to ensure the monitoring of employees is covered and includes all the methods you use.
Further, I would strongly recommend that any company or business which is considering implementing invasive monitoring of employees, for instance, via webcam seek legal advice before implementing such methods, and ensure they have sufficient justification for implementing it due to the potential risks.