Is it lawful to monitor employees’ behaviour in the workplace?

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The Data Protection Act 2018 and the Employment Practices Data Protection Code 2011 allows employers to monitor their employee’s behaviour in the workplace. This allows employers to ensure that rules and regulations are being followed whilst representing the organisation. Employers have adopted an array of methods to monitor their employees, including CCTV footage, checking emails, social media, listening to voicemails, monitoring telephone conversations and searching staff work areas. 

Although monitoring is allowed, employers must inform employees that monitoring is taking place and how their data is collected, processed and stored. Employees are entitled to see the data that has been collected about them upon request. 

Lawful criteria 

Although employers have a right to monitor their employees, certain criteria must be met in order for it to be deemed lawful: 

  • The personal data collected must be accurate and kept up to date.
  • If the stored personal data is no longer in use then it should no longer be in the possession of the employer, and therefore destroyed. 
  • Monitoring must be lawful, fair and transparent.
  • The purpose of the monitoring must be specified, explicit and legitimate. 
  • If employee monitoring involves collecting or using personal information, the data collected must be adequate, relevant and not excessive. 
  • Information gathered through monitoring should be kept secure. 

Monitoring versus privacy

Employees have the right to have some privacy at work. This right is supported by Article 8 of the ECHR and ratified into UK law by the Human Rights Act 1998. It is therefore important that employers reach a balance between monitoring and respecting employees’ privacy.  

Is it possible to monitor staff without their consent? 

Employers can monitor staff without their knowledge if they suspect the employee is breaking the law and making them aware of the fact would make it hard to detect the crime. However, you can only do this as part of a specific investigation and it must stop once the investigation is over. 

Where does Legal Utopia fit? 

Legal Utopia provides businesses with support on a range of common legal issues and disputes via its Legal Checker service on a fixed subscription basis on the Legal Utopia app, providing further legal guidance and resources to navigate the GDPR and ICO obligations.  

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