For many, one of the few sliver linings in the midst of coronavirus has been the chance to work from home.
With the need to commute to the office replaced with a quick trip to the kitchen table, home office or spare room, we were able to take more control of our time, juggle the work-life balance more efficiently and even be more productive.
But for some bosses, the loss of control was just too much to take.
How did they know we weren’t spending our working day watching endless re-runs of Cash in the Attic, or out in the garden topping up our tan, or just doing all those odd jobs around the house which we had been putting off.
That has led some employers to start introducing monitoring techniques to ensure we are actually doing what they are paying us for. But can I – as a member of staff – refuse to go along with such schemes?
Monitoring comes in a number of guises and we will all be used to sitting in an open plan office where our manager can see just how many times we go to the toilet during the day, or make a cup of tea or chat to our colleagues.
Clearly this isn’t possible when we are working from home, so companies might wish to pursue virtual alternatives, such as clocking-in software, keyword monitoring, spot checks on the content of emails and the websites staff visit and extra security checks which also gather information about employees’ working practices.
In law, there is no statutory right to privacy in the workplace. But there are plenty of checks on what employers can do.
For example, there is a right to privacy under Article 8 of the human rights act, whilst the recent GDPR legislation makes the way a company handles your personal data subject to strict legal terms and conditions.
If your company is planning to monitor you in any way, they must tell you. This means stating clearly, accurately and fully just what the monitoring is, why it is being introduced, what information will be gathered and how it will be used.
Failure to do this opens the door for concerted pushback from employees when it becomes common knowledge, claims of unfair or constructive dismissal from any staff who feel as if they were specifically targeted and not given the chance to defend themselves through the proper disciplinary channels, and the sort of reputational damage to your brand which is likely to scare of customers and clients.
And if your company has gone down the monitoring route, it must make sure that access to the data it has collected is limited and appropriate. Checks must be imposed on who can see any data collected, how long it is stored for and its security and safety. All are written into GDPR legislation and failure to comply is sure to bring down the wrath of the Information Commissioner.
And of course, there will be things on the employer’s system which are not fair game. Many of us have devices which now hold work, personal and family data all side by side. Personal devices should be regarded as out of bounds even if they have work software installed on them and employers should not read documents marked private or personal.
One particularly fraught form of monitoring is location tracking. There are lots of reasons why companies should avoid this, even if it is just to trace the whereabouts of office equipment. It comes with all sorts of privacy, human rights and data protection considerations not to mention the reputational damage it is sure to inflict on any company seen to be spying on its workforce.
It’s a complicated business – and staying on top of everything in the middle of a global crisis is far from easy. But we are here to help. If you need support on any of these issues just click the button for a free consultation and expert advice from people who care.