4 Jul 2014  •  Practice Management  •  4min read By  • Peninsula Business Services

When Does Monitoring Become Snooping?

Employment law and HR specialists, Peninsula Business Services, are here to let you know how far you can monitor your staff.

Employees should expect a certain amount of privacy in the work place, as would they anywhere else, but employers are entitled to monitor their employees to a certain degree.

To ensure employers aren’t breaching the data protection legislation, it’s recommended that they seek the consent of their employees before they undertake any monitoring, including emails, internet usage or telephone conversations. 

How to seek consent from your employees

To make your staff aware that there’s always a possibility their communications may be monitored, most companies adopt a formal written procedure. This method helps avoid any confusion and also means that companies can counter any claims from employees saying that they didn’t know they were being monitored.

There are a couple of different ways you can approach the formal method, either by simply including a clause in employee’s contracts of employment or by creating a new ‘Broad Communications’ policy. 

What’s a Broad Communications policy?

This policy sets out the company’s general intentions and expectations around all communications, including your expected standards of behaviour in relation to the use of telephones, internet, emails etc. and to inform the employee that, should their behaviour breach your rules, there will be consequences. To ensure staff are sticking to the rules, you’ll need to bring to their attention you’ll be monitoring their communications usage and to what extent you’ll monitor them. 

What’s reasonable when it comes to monitoring?

Companies are entitled to inform staff that all calls will be recorded and email inboxes will be regularly monitored. 

What happens if my employees don’t follow these rules?

It’s recommended that the Broad Communications policy should be used in accompaniment of a set of disciplinary rules. These should stipulate that unauthorised use of email, internet and/or telephone will be treated as a disciplinary matter. This then sets expectations in the employee’s mind that, should they then behave in this way, that they have done something wrong.

What happens if I don’t receive the employee’s consent?

If you’re unable to adopt these clauses or policies, and therefore your employee’s prior consent, you’ll need to be more careful with your approach – particularly if you’ve not informed employees of what constitutes a breach in this regard. 

It is difficult to convince a tribunal that you acted reasonably in disciplining or dismissing an employee for certain behaviour when they had no reasonable chance of knowing what they were doing was wrong. 

How could I overcome this issue?

You could consider issuing a statement to all staff which informs them that certain behaviours are not permitted. In any instances where these behaviours occur the standard company disciplinary procedure  will come in to play.

Should you have any doubts at all about your situation and its next steps, we always recommend that you seek the advice and support of legal and employment law specialists.

If you want to know more about effectively managing your team and keep up to date with current employment law issues, why not head on over to our Resource Library?

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