Australian Employee Monitoring Laws: What Are Employers Allowed and not Allowed Doing in the Workplace?
Q: Do employers have the right to monitor employees’ computers, such as desktops, laptops, servers and their Internet activities?
A: Yes, employers have this right but with certain limitations.
On the whole it is legal to monitor employees’ usage of company’s property such as: computers, laptops, cell phones, Internet etc., but workplace monitoring activities are widely covered by the Privacy Act, so then employers have to inform employees about monitoring system.
There is the Workplace Surveillance Act 2005, that came into effect on 7 October 2005, this Act «regulates video surveillance, tracking and computer surveillance including the monitoring or recording of emails and access to internet websites. It requires employers to comply with rules for both overt and covert surveillance». And in other Australian jurisdictions, from 16 January 2006, there is a statement that: «there are no Australian laws preventing or regulating employer monitoring of employees’ use of the Internet.»
«The Commonwealth Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000 became effective on 21 December 2001. However, it contains an exemption for “employee records”. At most, the Act may require employers to inform employees if their email and/or Net use is being monitored..». (‘Workplace Privacy and Surveillance’ by Electronic Frontiers Australia)
Q: Do employers have the right to monitor keystrokes, email’s content, and screens?
A: Yes, employers have this right.
Employers have the right to monitor all the computer activities of employees at the workplace, but on the assumption of employees’ getting notification about monitoring system in the workspace (see above).
«The Guidelines recommend that employers ensure that the organization’s email monitoring policies are given to and understood by employees. Those policies should:
• Be explicit about what activities are permitted and forbidden and refer to any relevant legislation;
• Specify what information is logged and who in the organization has rights to access the logs and content of employee email and browsing activities;
• Indicate, in general terms, the circumstances under which an organization will disclose the contents of emails and logs;
• Refer to the organization’s computer security policy;
• Outline in an easy-to-understand manner how the organization intends to monitor or audit staff compliance with its rules relating to acceptable usage of email and Web browsing.
In addition, policies should be reviewed on a regular basis and re-issued whenever significant changes are made». (‘Email and Internet Monitoring/Video and Physical Surveillance’ by Morrison & Foerster LLP, ‘GLOBAL EMPLOYEE PRIVACY AND DATA SECURITY LAW’).
Q: How employees are protected in this situation?
A: There are such laws that protect employees’ personal data.
According to the Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 , employees are only protected by law in the case of being not informed by the employer about the monitoring in the workplace. None of personal employees’ data can be monitored by employer without notifying the employees.
The Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 «regulates video surveillance, tracking and computer surveillance including the monitoring or recording of emails and access to internet websites. It requires employers to comply with rules for both overt and covert surveillance». (‘Workplace Privacy and Surveillance’ by Electronic Frontiers Australia)
«According to the Guidelines on Workplace Email, Web Browsing and Privacy (The Guidelines) issued by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, the National Privacy Principles apply to employee “emails that contain personal information other than employee records in certain circumstances” as well as logs of staff Web browsing activities». (‘Email and Internet Monitoring/Video and Physical Surveillance’ by Morrison & Foerster LLP, ‘GLOBAL EMPLOYEE PRIVACY AND DATA SECURITY LAW’).
Q: What professional lawyers suggest?
A: They suggest being loyal while monitoring the employees and also the say it is obligatory to inform people about monitoring at the working place.
Professional lawyers suggest making notification papers about monitoring in the workplace including all the rules and prohibitions; and of course make all the employees informed of being monitored during the workday. Or it might be mentioned in the agreement, which is signed by both sides and says that both employer and employee are aware of monitoring system and its rules.
Q: How to implement monitoring system in the workplace?
A: Professional lawyers advice being pretty understanding about employees and recommend employers ensure that the monitoring policies are given to employees and properly understood by them.
According to the professional lawyers’ recommendations it is important to keep close to the purposes of employees’ monitoring and of course follow all the steps of employees getting informed about monitoring in the workplace. Mentioned above steps should include: notification papers about monitoring inside the office, list of rules and prohibitions to all the employees.
Professional lawyers advice employers to choose such monitoring software that holds close to performance monitoring goals instead of spying ones.
By WorkTime – Respectful Employee Performance Monitoring Software –www.worktime.com
This article provides general information only. This information is for general understanding only and not to be used as legal advice. To receive professional legal advice, please consult your lawyer.