Can your boss spy on you whilst you are working from home?


17 September 2020

By Alexandra Dean

Now that we have all settled in quite comfortably to working from home (whether we have embraced the pyjamas, latest loungewear or seeking some normalcy with smart-casual attire), the question arises as to how employers can continue to monitor the productivity of their employees from home. It used to be that bosses would consider a "backsides in seats" approach to mean that the work is being done because there were people physically present in the office, but in this ever evolving world and in particular during this current pandemic, more and more employees are opting for more flexible working and indeed remote working altogether.

Inevitably, this means that your boss cannot just pop their head around the door to see what you are working on and it becomes more difficult to keep an eye on the work that the employees are producing. Of course, most businesses have adapted and are setting up regular catch calls on Zoom or team meetings to keep updated and keep up the team spirit, but this does not always give the same satisfaction or reassurance.

In recent weeks, the United States has seen an increase in demand for monitoring softwares that would allow employees to track their employees' actions. Presumably, this would keep track of the work that the employees are doing on their PCs and Laptop devices so that the employers know how much work they are doing, when and how. As is often the case with trend in the USA, the question arises whether this trend will make its way across the pond to us in the United Kingdom.

Fortunately for individuals, the UK has more stringent employment laws which protect employees and those, coupled with Data Protection Laws including GDPR, mean that employers must let employees know if they try and monitor them in any particular capacity and that would include information about what data is collated and for what purpose. You should remember though that employers can access your work email account and view any data from any databases or case management systems that the company may use, that does not amount to private data.

Is it unfortunate for employers? Not entirely, because there is still information that employers can access in order to see the productivity of their business and employees. Also, if they do want to monitor more closely then, of course, they could make the relevant announcements and implement any such processes to do so. This may be cumbersome and more intrusive which may, in turn, lower morale so it is something to be considered quite carefully.

Employers also have other remedies if they are concerned about an employee's productivity or performance or conduct during their employment in that they can follow performance management processes or disciplinary processes as may be appropriate. These can start off as an informal process and use the time to gather information before deciding whether a formal process is necessary.

Our experienced team are available to provide you with some practical advice on the information that you can or may want to gather or, if more appropriate, how to handle any disciplinary or performance process that you may need to undertake.

Please do get in touch with us and let us know how we could help. We can be contacted via the contact form on our website, via email or on 01245 228141.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.