Monitoring employees’ phone calls and emails, for example, to expose criminal activity or excessive personal use, is covered by the Data Protection Act, which is overseen and enforced by the Information Commissioner.
The new guidelines have been produced following complaints from businesses that the rules governing workplace monitoring were confusing. A free booklet outlining the issues affecting small businesses has been produced in conjunction with the main guidelines.
This suggests employers consider why they want to monitor their employees and whether it will be justified by real benefits. It is important to remember that monitoring is intrusive and workers have “legitimate expectations” to a degree of privacy in the workplace and regarding their personal lives.
If an employer decides to proceed with monitoring, they must ensure that the workers are aware of it and the reasons for it. If monitoring is being used to enforce rules or standards, make clear what these are.
Regarding emails, the Commissioner warns employers to be particularly careful. It is advisable to confine monitoring to the message’s address and subject heading, especially if it is clearly private or personal. If a workerÂ’s emails need to be checked in their absence they must be made aware of it.
For the full guidelines, go to gov.uk/data-protection-your-business for more information.