Is Big Brother Watching…?

As technology becomes increasingly more sophisticated, employers and employees alike may be tempted to make use of covert recordings of telephone conversations and meetings at work. There’s also a temptation to read and/or monitor employees emails without their permission.

But what are the legalities of this kind of practice?

Covert Recording

Should you be tempted to make a recording to prove that you’re right? Not only is making covert voice recordings of colleagues and management a serious breach of the trust and confidence between staff, it’s also probably a contravention of the Data Protection Act (2018).

In most cases, someone making a recording will be doing so because they feel they are an aggrieved party, maybe the victim of bullying in the workplace. It’s always best to ask first, or ask someone else to take detailed notes. Yet paradoxically, even though the act of making a recording, let alone sharing it, is an intrusion of privacy, tribunals will generally allow them to be admitted as evidence. That said, the motive and character of the covert recorder will probably affect how much weight their ‘evidence’ carries.

Email Monitoring

With regard to emails, that’s another grey area. It’s taken as a given that all emails sent and received on a work computer can be accessed and read by the employer, with or without permission.

But once again, there are serious data protection and privacy issues if an employer gets it wrong when making the call to read another’s messages.

According to Employment Law Consultants Elcons, as the use of covert recording is becoming more widespread, case law is likely to evolve in the coming years, resulting in precedents being set.

Know where you stand

Meanwhile there’s one simple way around this maze of discrepancies. That’s to have well written policies in place with regard to covert recording, email and monitoring. If everyone within the organisation understands these rules and that they are in place, and is reminded of them frequently, then issues are less likely to arise.

If you need any advice about covert monitoring policies for your organisation just get in touch and we’ll put you in contact with Elcons.

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