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What Employers Can and Cannot Do in Monitoring Their Employees


Monitoring just got on a new level around some businesses in the US that are introducing microchips in their employees. The same thing could happen in UK as well. Although the use of microchips is not something that has made its way all over the UK yet, there are still several ways in which employers in the UK could monitor their employees, in and out of the workplace.

Employers have to be very careful on how they go about this monitoring in order to avoid violating data protection and privacy laws. In other words, if an employer wants to keep track of its employees in and out of the workplace, they have to have written policies such as the employee handbook so that their staffs are aware that employers might do this.

"If they do not have any such written policies, employers are at risk of both being found in breach of data protection law and of facing Employment Tribunal claims by staff as a result of the breach of the employer’s duty of trust and confidence under the employment contract.”

And it is important to note that come May 2018, employers will have even more obligations to protect employees’ data for the General Data Protection Regulation will phase throughout the European Union that includes the UK.

Social media monitoring
As of July, EU data protection authorities made it pretty clear that it shouldn’t be a general practice for employers to screen their employees’ social media profiles. But according to a research that was established a year ago, at least 43% of recruiters checked their candidates’ Facebook profiles when screening their job application, while 87% checked their LinkedIn profiles and 22% even checks Twitter. Many workers are either friends with their bosses on Facebook or followed by them on Twitter, thus, making it difficult to keep their private lives away from their employer’s scrutiny even though it isn’t right for bosses to force their employees into accepting their friend requests.

In legal terms, it is not necessarily the case that employers are all

owed to use the information they’ve found on their staff’s social media profiles even if the information could be counted as being in the public domain.

Reading SMS
In some cases, employers can also track the employees’ SMS Tracking App provided if the phone they are using are courtesy of the company. If it is indeed the case, employers install Sms tracker application to keep tabs on the messages they sent and received while at work.

Reading emails at work
A year ago, the European Court on Human Rights ruled that it is legal for employers to monitor and track their employees’ work emails as well as other electronic messages. This case was brought upon by an employee in Romania who was fired after his employer gathered transcripts of conversations he had been exchanging with this fiancée through the Yahoo instant messaging service during working hours.

According to the court, monitoring these messages was allowed because the company made it pretty clear that using the service for personal or private messages during work is banned. And in the UK, it is also legal for employers to monitor work emails provided that they have a written policy that stated that they might do so which makes it crystal clear what the rules are on whether personal use of the email system is allowed. The same thing goes for checking their staffs’ browsing history in the internet.

DBS checks, formerly known as CBS checks are required in many jobs as it helps employer find out whether an employee has any relevant criminal conviction cases. But it must be done with the employee’s consent of course for it is counted as sensitive information for data protect purposes. So once they are offered an employment, the employer can also request medical information even if they really can’t use this information as a reason to withdraw the job offer as it is equivalent to discrimination.

Using CCTV cameras in the workplace is common in many industries. And so for companies to comply with the data protection law, having CCTVs in the workplace should be known to all their staffs and should not be kept secret. That’s why there must be signs displayed and the purpose of having CCTV cameras should be made clear. In addition to this, many employers do not realize that in making the workers aware that CCTVs are used for a specific reason, i.e. to prevent thefts, then it wouldn’t be lawfully right for them to subsequently use the CCTV footage against an employee for a different reason, i.e. to show that they arrive late at work regularly. And if employers try to do so, any subsequent dismissal will be most likely found unfair by and Employment Tribunal that could also to a constructive unfair dismissal case if as a result, the employee resigned.