Can Your Employer Spy On You At Work?

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Can Your Employer Spy On You At Work?

 

Surveillance of Employee at Work:

Nowadays, it is likely that your employer or client is keeping you under surveillance with Hidden Cameras or GPS Trackers or Voice Recorder. The latest technology has made it easier to keep an eye on employees through hidden cameras or Voice Recorder or GPS Trackers. Employers can keep an eye on staff through a diversity of methods – but it must do so in a way that is reliable with numerous legal requirements.

Many employers will also select to watch phone and IT systems usage by their staff, and in some sectors, employers will also use vehicle tracking and CCTV and other techniques to monitor their goods/products/premises. In this article, we shall focus on surveillance with a hidden camera, GPS Trackers, and Voice Recorder.

As technology goes forward some companies even go as advanced as implanting their staff with the modern technology of hidden cameras, GPS Trackers and Voice Recorder. For our latest devices visit our website.

Reasons for Surveillance of staff by Employers:

Employers may select to keep employees under surveillance for any of the following reasons:

  • To defend their employees or members of the public, for instance, health and safety reasons, thwart violence and robbery of belongings, to maintain discipline in the office and other business centers.
  • To check misconduct, offense, or stealing, or fraud of intellectual property and business coverts, by employees or members of the public and make sure the company policies are not broken.
  • To safeguard business interests.
  • To make sure the quality of customer services (which can also highlight training needs for their employees) and evaluate and improve productivity. To make sure that complaints of the customers are being solved.
  • To abide by legal and regulatory compulsions, and bound the employees to follow the rules and regulations of the organization.
  • To make sure communications for instance e-mails, internet usage, and phone calls are only relevant to the business.

Big company employers will have a Social Media Policy which may include surveillance of employee’s usage of networking websites (on the company’s own social media page personal or on the employee’s personal social media page). Several employers will also have an IT and Communications Policy setting out how employees can use their systems (which may include the usage of Company-owned tablets and mobiles and Bring-Your-Own-device policies). We have high-quality products for surveillance for more details click here.

Laws of the United Kingdom about surveillance:

The Laws of the United Kingdom about Surveillance include:

  • The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) and 2016
  • The Telecommunications Regulations 2000 (Lawful Business Practice)
  • The General Data Protection Regulations 2018 and The Data Protection Act 2018 – Employers must act following the GDPR and the DPA and its six key principles.

The implied legal requirement of trust and confidence that subsists between an employer and employee is also related – Employers should not act without logical and appropriate reason, in a way that is probable to destroy or harm the relationship of mutual trust and confidence between themselves and their employees.

However, The Human Rights Act 1998 also takes part in a significant position here as it offers individuals a right to privacy and the United Kingdom’s laws endeavor to identify that employees may feel that monitoring by their employer at work is meddling.

Therefore, employers require finding a balance between an employee’s rightful expectation to privacy and the Employers interests when they watch their staff, in any way; there also must be a legitimate reason for the monitoring.

Because of the necessity for this balance, the current United Kingdom laws differentiate between:

  • Targeted observation (of one individual) and systematic observation (where all employees or groups of employees are regularly observed similarly)
  • Open and covert surveillance
  • The surveillance of already-accessed communications and the observation or cutting off of un-accessed electronic communications (e.g. internet access, faxes, and telephone calls). An ‘interception’ occurs when the contents of the communication are made obtainable to someone other than the sender or intended recipient. The sender and recipient of the communication must approve to the interception for this to be legal. ‘Interceptions’ are highly legalized under the RIPA and LBP laws (above).

All these surveillance types can be lawful.

Therefore when employers establish surveillance systems they must (to make certain the monitoring is legal):

  • Perform an ‘impact assessment’to validate the use of Hidden Camera/GPS Trackers/Voice Recorder/monitoring – which identifies the reason behind the monitoring and probable profits and unfavorable impacts; look at alternative methods in which the purpose might be achieved; look at the requirements that will take place from monitoring e.g. informing employees, managing data, subject access requests (SAR) by staff; whether the decision is logical (compared to the unfavorable effects the employees may experience)
  • Tell the staff the reason, extent, and nature of the monitoring that may occur. Staff do not go down their right to personal privacy when they walk through their Employer’s doors and this must be unbiased with the Employers right to make sure their employees are not engaging in misbehavior
  • Make sure the surveillance is related to the business and the equipment being observed is partly or wholly given for work
  • Be clear what levels of privacy an employee can or cannot imagine when using their employer’s systems to make private communications, and when using restrooms or break areas that are under the vigilance
  • Give an unrecorded telephone line for employees to use in emergencies if all other telephones are habitually recorded/monitored
  • Be clear what levels of email/internet/phone usage by the employee for private reasons is permitted and what is not
  • Give written policy accounts about the surveillance
  • Explain how the boss will use the information obtained via observing. An employee may be conscious that Hidden Cameras, GPS Trackers, Voice Recorder exist, for instance, but this won’t validate an Employer using Hidden Camera, GPS Tracker, and Voice Recorder in a disciplinary procedure if the employee was never told the video recording could be used for that purpose. For example – an employee is entitled to assume the Hidden Camera, GPS Tracker, Voice Recorder will be used for security reasons only unless they’re told otherwise
  • Make sure that those involved in doing the monitoring are conscious of their privacy obligations
  • Explain how the information will be saved and processed following the GDPR and the Data Protection Act, and who has access to this information
  • Let employees voice any apprehensions they have, in confidence, and make sure they are given the chance to explain or challenge any video recording used as part of a disciplinary process.

Targeted Surveillance:

Usually, surveillance should only be performed out by an employer openly and systematically, except targeted and/or secret monitoring is reasonable.

Targeted/secret surveillance will generally only be reasonable in exceptional circumstances, where there are grounds to suspect criminal action or serious unprofessional conduct by the employee in question and the monitoring is essential to thwart or detect this crime or malpractice, where no other method is reasonable.

Such surveillance should be only carried out within a set timeframe and as part of a specific investigation and that the threat of interruption on ‘innocent’ workers is considered, e.g. the surveillance must be scarcely targeted and impact on as few people as possible. Such surveillance should also be mentioned as a likelihood in the employers’ data shield or privacy policy. This surveillance would habitually then lead to a disciplinary hearing where the employer considers the employee has breached company policies.

If this targeted surveillance provides information unintentionally of other misconduct by other workers, this proof should not be used against those members of staff unless it is a case of serious coarse misbehavior. Where the misbehavior is minor, the use of the ‘secret’ video recording to discipline a member of staff will usually not be allowed.

Personal data collected through surveillance must be for rightful purposes and cannot be used for any other purpose than initially intended.

A close watch of employees out of the workplace may also be suitable if the employer can display it was reasonable (they have plausible causes to suggest an employee is involved in misconduct or breaching company policies) and in proportion (the employer did not go any further than was essential in its use of observation).

Essentially, any surveillance that is done by the employer must be in proportion to the concern the employer seeks to tackle.

On May 25, 2018, when the GDPR has become law, the Information Commissioner’s Office has verified that secret monitoring of employees can only be justified in outstanding circumstances when updating the employee involved would prejudice the avoidance or detection of a crime. Employers can rely on our high-quality device for surveillance of employees, click here for more details.

Study of a Case:

Community Gateway Association versus Atkinson, in a 2014 lawsuit, the Employment Appeal Trial held that the Employer detecting an employee’s emails, in the course of a punitive investigation into the employee’s demeanor, did not amount to an unfair meddling with the employees’ personal life – the employee did not have a sensible hope of privacy in conditions where he had sent emails from his work account in breach of the e-mail policy (which he had outlined and was accountable for enforcing!) and the emails were not marked ‘personal/private’.

The fact that Mr. Atkinson had used the email system in violation of the Association’s email policy was discovered as a result of its lawful investigation into his demeanor. Employers should bear in made that employees may have a logical hope of privacy at work if the boss doesn’t have an ‘Email and Internet Use Policy (or similar) which is made known to all employees.

In early 2018, two significant decisions have been given by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR):

In Montenegro versus Antovic and Mirkovic, the ECHR ruled that it was a breach of two professor’s secrecy rights under Human Rights rules, to install observation cameras in student auditoriums (for the said reason of guarding property and people and also watch teaching). The ECHR said that ‘private life’ may comprise professional activities occurring in a public background (the auditorium), and the employer lacked an adequate reason for the surveillance as there was no proof that property or people were at risk.

In the Spanish case of Lopez Ribalda and Others v Spain, the ECHR found that the use of concealed video cameras in a supermarket to watch suspected robberies by employees breached their privacy rights under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

In 2009, after witnessing irregularities between levels of stocks and sales that was worth 20,000€ over several months, the supermarket, along with visible CCTV camera, installed hidden cameras behind their cashier’s desks throughout the store. Five employees were terminated from the job later after the surveillance cameras noticed them stealing (or them assisting other employees or customers to steal). The employees said their data safety rights and rights to privacy had been violated by the use of secret recordings.

The Spanish courts opposed and said the terminations were fair as the secret surveillance was warranted. The ECHR disagreed and said the Spanish Courts had been unsuccessful to strike a fair balance between the employees’ right to privacy and the employer’s right to defend its business – they had not told staff about the installation of the hidden cameras, and all employees were observed without time limit.

The ECHR felt that the secret surveillance was an interruption into their personal life, as the cashiers could not shun being filmed as they were necessitated to report to work. The ECHR said that to abide by the data guard legislation the employees must openly, precisely and unmistakably be informed of the monitoring and the purpose of the surveillance. Nothing will be done regarding surveillance without the consent of an employee.

If you are an Employer and need quality devices for surveillance of your staff you can take benefit from our high-quality products. For our high-quality products click here.

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