What are your privacy rights at work?


Monitoring at work is perfectly acceptable in some circumstances; indeed, in some industries employers have a regulatory obligation which can only be fulfilled through monitoring.

Legitimate reasons for monitoring employees might include preventing theft or ensuring workers’ health and safety.

So how could my privacy rights be breached?

However, monitoring may be considered to be in breach of a person’s right to privacy and employment law if used inappropriately.

Employees have a right to some degree of privacy in the workplace and the law does impose limits on monitoring.

Some of the more controversial forms of monitoring at work include monitoring employee emails and internet use, monitoring telephone calls, and CCTV surveillance.

If you believe you're being illegally monitored at work, you should obtain legal advice from an employment law solicitor.

How can an employer introduce the idea of employee monitoring?

As a general rule, if an employer intends to monitor the activities of their employees they should consult with their employees or with an employee representative, such as a trade union representative, prior to introducing such measures.

They should take into account any concerns expressed by their employees. Monitoring should be done only when necessary and by means that are no more intrusive than necessary, considering the alternatives. Excessive and unjustified monitoring is likely to be a breach of data protection laws.

One of the major issues about privacy at work is the question of whether an employer can conduct undercover monitoring. Covert monitoring should only be used in exceptional circumstances, such as when an employer has genuine suspicions of criminal activity.

The Data Protection Act

The Data Protection Act restricts employers from using covert audio or video monitoring in areas which employees would reasonably expect to be private, such as private offices, toilets and changing rooms.

The Act additionally requires that when monitoring involves the collection, storage and use of personal information, it must be done in a way which is both lawful and fair to employees, and employees must be made aware of the monitoring and why it is being carried out.

For this reason, many employers provide policies on email and internet usage which employees are required to read and sign their acknowledgement of.

For further legal advice regarding monitoring in the workplace, you can contact an employment lawyer. An employment lawyer can assist you if you have any concerns over your right to privacy at work.

If you would like to obtain legal advice on privacy at work, whether you're an employer or an employee, we can put you in touch with a local specialist employment solicitor free of charge. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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