Everyone is entitled to a private life, including at work. While some degree of monitoring is a normal part of working life, there are legal limits on intrusive monitoring or surveillance.

In recent years, cheap monitoring technology has made it easier for employers to collect information about their staff. Controversial forms of monitoring include opening and reading staff’s emails, monitoring internet use, listening in on calls and installing CCTV.

Generally, if your employer is planning to monitor employees’ activities, they should first consult the union or the employees themselves. They should make clear what measures are being introduced and why they’re necessary.

Monitoring must be done in a way that’s not oppressive to staff. If it’s unnecessarily intrusive or if the employer collects more information that is strictly required, they may be in breach of data protection laws.

If you’re concerned about how you’re being monitored at work, you should approach your union rep. If you’re not already a member of a union, you should join and encourage colleagues to do the same.

The more union members there are in a workplace, the stronger the union's position will be when it comes to negotiating improvements to the conditions where you work.

Common
questions
What is monitoring at work?
Monitoring is to some extent a routine part of the employer/employee relationship. Most employers make some checks on the quantity and quality of work produced by their staff, and employees will generally expect this.
How should my employer approach monitoring at work?
Employers may want to monitor their workplaces for a variety of legitimate reasons (e.g. to discourage theft or violence by members of the public). Workers will generally expect and accept some degree of monitoring as necessary – for example, monitoring can help ensure that workers in hazardous jobs are not at risk from unsafe working practices...
Do I have a right to know what information my employer has collected through monitoring me at work?
Yes. The Data Protection Act gives you the right to know the type of personal information your employer holds about you, why that information is being held, how the information is being used or will be used, and who will be able to access that information...
I’m concerned about email and web usage monitoring at my workplace. What should I do?
Because the Human Rights Act 1998 extends to the workplace, you have the right to a reasonable amount of personal correspondence and phone calls during work time. This does not mean that you have the legal right to use the work phone, email or internet for personal reasons...