Employees unaware extent of digital monitoring their employers are legally allowed

Employees unaware extent of digital monitoring access employers legally allowed

Most employees incorrectly believe the monitoring by their bosses of their personal social media and work email is illegal, but they’d be wrong, new data from Broadband Genie has revealed. The research found public ignorance over monitoring in the workplace, with the majority (79 percent) believing that workplaces weren’t legally allowed to monitor personal social media accounts. Similarly, the opening of work mail or email (58 percent), recording of work phone calls (53 percent) and checking logs of websites (36 percent) were all believed to be illegal. However, sources such as Citizens Advice explain workplaces in the UK can monitor employees use of phone, internet and email if, “it relates to business, the equipment being monitored is provided partly or wholly for work, [and] the employer has made all reasonable efforts to inform the employee that communications will be monitored”.

Unsurprisingly the majority polled said they would be unhappy with their employer monitoring their personal phone (71 percent) and social media accounts (62 percent). Additionally, a third of people said they would be unhappy with the opening of work mail or email and 21 percent with the checking of website they’ve visited. It was found just under half (43 percent) admitted to browsing sites unrelated to work during work hours.

Karin Henson, Specialist Employment Lawyer at Lexoo, said: “Any handbook or contract needs to confirm that employees may be monitored in the workplace and there are only very particular reasons as to why employers can take steps to monitor their employees. As an example, if information came to light that an employee was off sick however had posted on social media evidence to the contrary, then the results from the monitoring could be used in disciplinary procedures.”

Respondents were also asked to identify which organisations and people they would be comfortable having their web activity monitored by. Employers ranked second from bottom with a trust score of (2.10) [3], with the government (2.43), intelligence agencies (3.26) and police (3.28) all ranking higher. Only local councils (2.06) scored lower.

Rob Hilborn, Head of Strategy at Broadband Genie, said: “The fact that so many think these monitoring activities are illegal is worrying, as in some situations it’s not the case. It’s well worth workers spending some time checking their employers’ handbook and contract to find out what type, if any, monitoring their employer use.

“Employers should avoid making snap decisions to snoop on staff before consulting them and considering alternative actions. Trust is an important part of any workplace and a poorly implemented monitoring system could cause havoc for morale.”

More information can be found in Broadband Genie’s blog post here

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