Should You Spy on Your Employees at Work?
Should You Spy On Employees At Work

Should You Spy on Your Employees at Work?

Spying on your Employees!!

As an employer you will have a very busy schedule which means you do not have the time to observe your employees and you may often wonder what they are up to.

The main question to think about is, can you trust your employees?


Trusting your employees plays a big part as to whether you feel the need to check up on them and ascertain what they are doing during their time at work or whether you can relax knowing that they will be hard at work completing tasks they should be.

If you find yourself in the situation where you want to check on your employees at work, you can, but you need legitimate reasons. You must clarify with all your employees why it is you are monitoring them.

Ways to monitor your employees may include:

  • Monitoring phone calls with customers for training purposes.
  • Monitoring of email usage.
  • Monitoring of website visits.
  • GPS tracking of company devices such as cars and smartphones.
  • Bag searches.

However, if you plan to carry out such searches and monitoring, you must have a policy in place that informs employees of this and you must have a legitimate work-related reason to do so.

On joining the company, the employee will receive documents such as their contract of employment and the employee handbook which will include these policies.

If you do not have these policies in place but wish to introduce them, you must liaise with all employees and ascertain a signed agreement which states their acceptance of these changes and new policies.

For example you may have an ’Internet and Email Policy’ which highlights the regulations around the use of emails for business purposes only.

Using the internet for business purposes only and that the company has the right to retrieve the contents of all incoming and outgoing messages for the purpose of monitoring.

By signing a document to declare that they will adhere to your company’s policies, the employee is therefore agreeable to not breach these policies.

All policies around monitoring should be highlighted in the employee handbook.

Although monitoring is a common practice in many businesses’, ‘spying’ on the other hand, is against the law in many cases.

As an employer, you should be careful to ensure you don’t cross the line between monitoring and spying as the chances that an employee will make a claim and take you to an employment tribunal due to spying are high.

An example of this would include installing microscopic cameras in staff toilets or following an employee to a supposed meeting without them knowing.

You can place video surveillance devices in common areas and entrances to your office. However, you cannot legally place cameras in private spaces such as bathrooms.

As with monitoring, you must be able to justify spying, but even then, the courts will likely find that you have breached human rights. It is therefore safer to monitor your employees, not spy on them.


Advantages of Monitoring


Monitoring employees minimises immoral and unlawful behaviours that could have a negative impact on a business such as losing custom and therefore losing money.

Monitoring encourages employees that would otherwise act unlawfully to act in an expected manner resulting in the business excelling.


Disadvantages of Monitoring

Employees may already have more than enough stress at work by having to meet tight deadlines, dealing with co-workers etc.

The constant monitoring of employee activities could create even more stress check out this blog on stress

If the employee feels the surveillance is felt to be a form of spying, they will develop a feeling of mistrust from their employer.

This feeling of being constantly watched will more than likely create an uncomfortable and negative work environment which may negatively impact the success of the business.

The effect achieved will be the opposite effect anticipated, by decreasing performance and encouraging employees to develop ways to work around the monitoring.

This could also cause employee turnover to increase.

As well as this, such technology can be expensive. Storage methods and the equipment necessary are costly, and smaller businesses may not be able to afford it.


Importance Of Data Protection

The main UK legislative sources for the collection and monitoring of data are the following link:  Data Protection Act 2018 and GDPR.

The data protection principles are a set of strict rules to ensure that information kept is:

  • Used fairly, lawfully, and transparently
  • Used for specified, explicit purposes
  • Used in a way that is adequate, relevant, and limited to only what is necessary
  • Accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date
  • Kept for no longer than is necessary
  • Handled in a way that ensures appropriate security, including protection against unlawful or unauthorised processing, access, loss, destruction, or damage

The employee has the right to find out what information is stored about them. These include the right to:

    • Be informed about how your data is being used
    • Access personal data
    • Have incorrect data updated
    • Have data erased
    • Stop or restrict the processing of your data
    • Data portability (allowing you to get and reuse your data for different services)
    • Object to how your data is processed in certain circumstances


It is important to be mindful of this when monitoring employees and ensuring you are not illegally spying on them. If you would like an advice on this subject, then feel free to contact our HR service team.

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