Intrusive Interference or Legitimate Interest – How much should you monitor people at work?

September 19, 2018
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Monitoring work activity is no longer just the case of a manager or supervisor directly observing their team, the rapid growth of technology has enabled a wide range of monitoring activities and used inappropriately or unfairly, monitoring could be counter-productive and have a demoralising effect.

There are many reasons why organisations may want to monitor the activity of people at work and used appropriately monitoring can be beneficial for performance and health and safety.

Using technology to monitor the locations of personnel in a large or complex building can be beneficial in the event of a fire, recording phone calls can protect workers and their employers from incorrect allegations about what was said in a call, the use of CCTV or body cameras can reduce physical violence towards personnel whose work can bring them into volatile situations and monitoring technology can also improve safety and security for people who work alone or in remote areas.

However monitoring technology can raise a number of questions, is it acceptable to put CCTV in a workplace canteen or rest room, when should technology used to monitor the safety of lone workers be switched off, should you check an employee’s use of social media?

Excessive monitoring could be seen as a breach of privacy, or indicating a lack of trust, and may be a source of stress for those being monitored. One of the classic areas where disputes can arise between employers and employees is monitoring toilet breaks. Some types of monitoring activity may also raise data protection issues.

What type and level of surveillance is appropriate will depend on individual workplaces and circumstances.

The TUC recently published the findings of research carried out into workplace surveillance. The research gives an indication of workers attitudes to different types of surveillance and found that a significant number of workers fear that greater workplace surveillance through technology will fuel distrust and discrimination. An important factor appears to be whether or not the monitoring is arbitrary or justified. The vast majority of workers (79%) say employers should be legally required to consult their workforces and reach agreement before using surveillance.

Full details of the research can be found on the TUC website at:

Please speak to your normal PIB Risk management contact if you have any questions about monitoring workers for health and safety reasons.

Our HR Support service, led by Mariea Clarke, can help you plan ahead, maintain legal compliance and work through your HR challenges. Please contact Mariea using [email protected]  if you have any questions or would like to arrange an HR compliance audit.