In today’s evolving work landscape, where remote work is becoming increasingly common, the topic of employee monitoring has taken centre stage. A recent study commissioned by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that 70% of the public view workplace monitoring as intrusive. This growing concern has prompted the ICO to issue comprehensive guidance for employers on monitoring workers in a lawful, transparent, and equitable manner.
The rise in remote work and the advent of advanced monitoring technologies have led many employers to consider surveillance measures. The ICO’s guidance emphasises the need for organisations to meticulously consider their legal obligations and the rights of their employees before implementing any form of monitoring.
The ICO’s research also unveils that nearly one in five people (19%) believe they have been monitored by an employer, and if monitoring reaches excessive levels, it can potentially encroach upon individuals’ private lives and jeopardise their privacy.
A significant 70% of survey respondents deemed workplace monitoring intrusive, and fewer than one in five (19%) would feel comfortable accepting a job where they knew they’d be monitored.
This guidance, applicable to both the public and private sectors, not only delineates the legal prerequisites for monitoring but also offers best practice advice for employers. It seeks to foster trust between employers and employees while respecting the latter’s privacy rights.
The Deputy Commissioner at the ICO, notes the importance of maintaining transparency and fairness. She highlights that business interests must not take precedence over worker privacy and outlines the need for organisations to strike the right balance from the outset.
Monitoring can encompass a range of activities, from tracking calls, messages, and keystrokes to capturing screenshots, webcam footage, audio recordings, and the use of specialised software to monitor activities.
For organisations looking to engage in monitoring, the ICO’s guidance gives certain steps, including making workers fully aware of the nature, extent, and reasons for monitoring, defining a clear purpose using the least intrusive means, having a lawful basis for processing employee data, ensuring transparent communication about monitoring, and more. The guidance also touches upon how data protection law applies to monitoring practices, such as the use of biometric data for timekeeping and attendance.
While employee monitoring can serve legitimate purposes, it must be conducted with careful consideration for privacy and data protection. Striking the right balance is not only legally required but also pivotal in maintaining a positive and respectful work environment where employees feel comfortable and valued.