The concept of employee monitoring is not a new one, however, with an increase in remote working, smaller organisations (in particular) will want to ensure their business is running efficiently, wherever their staff are based.

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There are many tools for monitoring employee performance, productivity, accountability and behaviour. The existence of tools doesn’t mean that you should monitor employees, nor does it mean that it is an effective way to manage people. It is important to trust your employees to do their job, without them fearing being snooped on in the workplace.

Employee monitoring comes with risks, including a breakdown in trust between the employer and employee. Monitoring can also increase stress for the employee and harm job satisfaction.

In some circumstances, monitoring could also breach the legal and human rights of your employees.

Employers may find that monitoring may increase productivity, although if you are not transparent about how monitoring is managed, you could risk a reduction in engagement and morale.

Types of employee monitoring

There are many ways employers can monitor employees. With advancements in technology driving the development of new solutions, employers can rely on much more than bag searches and timesheets to keep an eye on teams.

For example, it’s now relatively simple to monitor emails, phone conversations, social media, internet activity and CCTV. Some employers may also track the location of company assets and the use of building access cards.

Is employee monitoring legal in the UK?

Yes, employee monitoring is legal in the UK. The Data Protection Act 2018 sets out six key principles that should be followed if employers wish to monitor their employees. They are:

  • 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.
  • The personal data must be accurate and kept up to date.
  • If personal data is collected, it shouldn’t be kept for any longer than is necessary.
  • Information gathered through monitoring should be kept secure.

When contemplating whether to monitor employees, we recommend considering the points below to ensure you respect the employee’s privacy whilst complying with data protection law.

Explain clearly to your employees what you’re monitoring and why.

You must tell employees what information will be recorded or monitored and the reason for the policy, except in extremely limited circumstances – for example, if you suspect criminal activity. They should also be informed of how long you will keep any information you collect, ensuring that you securely delete or dispose of the information when you no longer need it.

Have a clearly defined policy on employee monitoring.

You should consult with employees and any representatives before introducing any form of monitoring. Together you should agree and create a clear policy that is compliant with legal requirements.  The policy should include the nature and extent of the monitoring process, the reason for the monitoring, the impact of the monitoring on the business, and how confidential or sensitive information is handled.

Conduct an impact assessment before the monitoring.

This will decide if and how to monitor employees. You should clearly identify the reasons for monitoring, the likely benefits and/or potential negative effects of monitoring and other alternatives. You must ensure you understand and comply with the law around monitoring.

Avoid excessive monitoring / consider alternatives.

Employers should restrict monitoring to what is strictly necessary. Therefore, consider whether monitoring can be reduced in some way, for instance, by exploring whether there are less intrusive ways to achieve the same results. This could include training staff on how they’re expected to work or carrying out regular performance reviews to encourage them to work in a certain way.

In conclusion

In response to the question ‘Is it ok to monitor the movement and activities of your employees in the workplace?’, employers should aim to achieve a balance between an employee’s right to privacy at work (even if working from home) and an employer’s right to take steps to ensure the smooth running of the business.

There are various pros and cons around employee monitoring, but the question employers should consider is ‘is monitoring employees in the workplace right for my business?’

Frequently Asked Questions

Useful questions and answers about “Is it OK to monitor the movement and activities of your employees in the workplace?”

Is staff tracking software legal?

Provided that the principles of Data Protection Legislation are followed, staff tracking software is legal. Employers should carefully assess and balance their need for monitoring with an employee's right to privacy.

Why might a company use software to track employees?

Company's use software for a variety of reasons. For example, to ensure health and safety, personal or information security, to see performance data for business improvement or training and to monitor productivity.

Is using software to monitor employees a good idea?

Monitoring is a good idea where it is carefully planned and communicated having considered the benefits and impacts to both the employeer and employees.