The monitoring and surveillance of employees is now regulated and the law has increasing regard for privacy at work. This can affect your right to manage and supervise staff. Data protection is relevant to the information you have about the employees of your company. There have been some high profile examples of how not to do it.
Privacy at work
Monitoring and surveillance at work can cover a number of activities including:
- CCTV recordings
- opening emails
- examining website and telephone usage
- keystroke logging on computers
- vehicle tracking
There are various laws covering these activities including the Human Rights Act and the Data Protection Act. In addition some activities, such as intercepting emails and telephone calls may be a criminal offence in certain circumstances.
The Data Protection Act 1998 contains 8 principles. These state that personal data shall:
- be obtained and processed lawfully and fairly
- be held for lawful purposes
- be used or disclosed only for lawful or compatible purposes
- be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose for which they are held
- be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date
- be held no longer than is necessary for the purpose for which they are held
- be accessible to individuals it concerns, who may, where appropriate correct or erase it
- be surrounded by proper security
These principles have particular application in the context of the employment relationship. You may only process data about an employee which is required for the management of the employment. This will be information obtained for payroll purposes, during appraisals and reviews, in disciplinary procedures, in connection with illness absences and so on. The processing of some data, known as sensitive personal data, requires the explicit consent of the employee.
Proper management of data requires that only accurate and up-to-date data about employees is retained, that this is kept confidential and that effective security is in place to ensure that it is not accidentally transferred or lost.
An employee has the right to see the information held about them and to complain to a court if this is inaccurate or otherwise not in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998. This information could be used to challenge performance assessments or issues regarding pay and promotion.
Our solicitors can advise your company in all areas of data protection compliance.