What You Should Know About Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring

You by-and-large trust your employees, or they wouldn't work for you.

At the same time, it is your role to keep them safe when they are on the clock. And if your team engages in any commercial driving, you also have regulatory responsibilities.

One of the most pressing issues for employers in the UK, and particularly those with fleets or company vehicles, is distracted driving. Studies show that drivers spend an average of 1.30 per cent of their driving time on their phones, which means neither their eyes nor minds are on the road.

Unfortunately, we all know it only takes a split second of inattention to cause an accident.

As an employer, you have a duty of care, and you can exercise it with workplace privacy and employee monitoring systems.

Keep reading to learn how to begin thinking about the best activity monitor to keep your employees, other drivers, and your business safe.

What Is Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring? According to the Law

Are you thinking about using software to monitor employee's mobile use on the road? You might wonder if you have the legal right to do so.

As it turns out, you do.

The UK government says employers "have the right" to monitor specific employee activities. 

What does employee monitoring include? Generally speaking, you can:

  • Check phone logs
  • Record phone calls
  • Use CCTV cameras
  • Open mail/email (including automated software)
  • Collect information from terminals like POS
  • Asking credit reference agencies for reports
  • Checking weblogs
  • GPS trackers for vehicle data collection

Can you monitor your fleet drivers phones to prevent distracted driving?

Yes. Automated software is covered, and you can monitor electronic communications, like phone calls, texts, and data use in cases when:

  • The monitoring relates to your business
  • The monitoring takes place on equipment used at least in part for work
  • All employees receive notice of the monitoring
  • The monitor switches off when the employee is off-duty

If you have specific questions, you can speak to ACAS about both your and your employees' rights in the case of workplace privacy and employee monitoring.

What Isn't Legal?

Secret or hidden cameras or monitoring are generally not legal. You also can't engage in excessive, unjustified monitoring.

Additionally, you can only monitor employee's activities when you use the data for management purposes only.

Fundamentally, if you use covert methods to learn unnecessary information about one or more employees, then you violate the employees' rights.

Mobile Phone Use: What You Can and Can't Target

It's one thing to monitor someone's work email or search their bag when they leave the building. But what about a person's mobile phone? People's phones are intensely private places and often used for a mix of both personal and professional uses.

If you run a business that requires employees to get behind the wheel, then you can monitor their phones when they are on the road.

Why? Because using mobile phones on the road is a violation of UK law.

The UK government introduced new penalties to target drivers using mobile phones in 2017. These penalties caused drivers to sit up and take notice: 49,694 drivers received fixed penalties in 2016, and only 30,470 receive them in 2017.

What to Do Before Monitoring Employee's Activities

Employee monitoring tools are a tremendous help to business owners who have safety requirements to meet. But before you buy even the best employee monitoring software, think about why you need it.

We recommend sitting down and discussing the following topics.

What Is the Law?

Before you announce a new monitoring policy, discuss the distracted driving laws that make that monitoring a good strategy.

For example, one in ten fleet drivers doesn't know the law regarding mobile phone use or finds it unclear. A quarter of drivers don't know that tapping the screen on their phone is illegal when their vehicle is on the road.

On the road can mean driving, waiting in traffic, or on a lay-by on the side of the motorway.

A mobile phone is "used" when picked up, removed from its cradle, or when the driver uses any of its functions.

What Reasons Can You Provide for Using Software/Apps?

You should be able to explain clear reasons for using the software to your staff upon installation.

In the case of mobile phone monitoring on the road, your reasons might include:

  • Physical protection for the driver
  • Preventing fines and points on license
  • Protecting other drivers and road safety

All of these are clear, concise reasons for monitoring a driver's activity.

Note the Pros and Cons

You need to consider the consequences of using one of these systems, including both the positive and negative points.

Start by identifying the positive points of the software, such as improved personal safety, increased legal compliance, and lower company costs.

When looking for adverse consequences, we recommend using an impact assessment to determine the risks and how to mitigate them.

For example, a driver may be worried about making a call to emergency services. Being unable to call 999 in a life-or-death situation is life-threatening. So, you'll need an app that blocks distractions like SMS messages but allows the driver to make emergency calls without fumbling with the app.

Protect Your Drivers and Your Business

Workplace privacy and employee monitoring laws in the UK allow companies to collect or monitor data on employee's computers and phones. It's legal as long as you have a genuine reason for doing so, communicate your practice to your colleagues, and only use the data for business purposes.

You can use employee monitoring software to protect your team even when they're on the road. Contact us to learn how you can keep British roads safer with our Driver Protection app.