Employee monitoring laws in the UAE - 12 frequently asked questions:Is employee monitoring legal in the UAE? Is it legal to monitor company’s computers? Is it legal to monitor employee internet and social media activities? Is it legal to monitor screen contents and keystrokes? Is it legal to monitor email content? Is it legal to monitor or record phone conversations? Is it legal to use video monitoring systems in the workplace? Is it legal to monitor private messages and email content? Is it legal to monitor employees' personal devices? Is it legal to monitor employees' personal computers? Is it required to inform employees of the monitoring? Employee monitoring policy - mandatory or not? And some bonus info!
1. Is employee monitoring legal in the UAE?Yes. As long as there are legitimate business interests to protect, it is legally acceptable for businesses to conduct employee monitoring to ensure work efficiency and protect business assets. That being said, The UAE requires consent to be given before employees are monitored. Companies are not allowed to monitor any device (including computers, phones, emails, keystrokes, and so on) without consent, even if they are company-owned.
2. Is it legal to monitor the company's computers?Yes. Employers have the right to monitor computers given to employees for work purposes as long as employees are informed of and consent to it, especially where personal data is involved. It is illegal to monitor workers even during working hours if they do not give permission. (According to Federal UAE Laws: UAE Constitution (Federal Law 1 of 1971), Penal Code (Federal Law 3 of 1987 as amended), Cyber Crime Law (Federal Law 5 of 2012 regarding Information Technology Crime Control), and Telecommunications Regulation (Federal Law by Decree 3 of 2003 as amended).
3. Is it legal to monitor employee internet and social media activities?Yes. In the UAE, It is illegal for anyone to divulge information belonging to any employer. Companies generally have the right to prevent employees from using the Internet for anything but work-related use. Employers still need to consider employees' personal lives when monitoring social media activities and the use of the Internet. Monitoring without consent is a violation of Article 22 of the Cyber Crime Act, which provides that a person is liable if they use any computer network, website, or information technology to disclose confidential information obtained in the course of their work without authorization. Companies should develop policies on the use of the Internet and social media. Policies may include instructing employees not to delete history and temporary files from their web browsers.
4. Is it legal to monitor screen contents and keystrokes?Yes. In the UAE, employers have the right to monitor and analyze screen contents as well as keystrokes on company property. However, employees reserve the right to consent to such monitoring, as they have a right to personal privacy. And if the employees disagree, then the employer can’t monitor them.
5. Is it legal to monitor email content?Yes. Company email systems are company-owned property. Employees should be mindful of accessing their personal emails from the office computer as they can be monitored. Under the UAE's constitution, privacy and personal information should not be accessed without consent. The company must clearly inform its employees clearly of the monitoring of the emails. Also, clear policies regarding the use of corporate emails for professional use should be provided.
6. Is it legal to monitor or record phone conversations?Yes, most UAE businesses have the legal right to monitor telephone conversations as a risk management measure. Some companies may not be required to monitor phone calls but may do so for training or quality control purposes. Although no federal legislation governs the recording of employees' telephone conversations in the workplace, according to laws such as:
- Article 15 of the Cybercrimes Law.
- Article 72 of the Telecommunications Law.
- Article 378 onwards of the Penal Code.
7. Is it legal to use video monitoring systems in the workplace?Yes. In fact, executive regulations require installing video surveillance systems (CCTV). There are in-depth requirements of how and where these systems (including recording devices and cameras) should be provided and under what conditions. Among the many requirements are that:
- cameras should be stable, fixed, and clear.
- Cameras should be installed in emergency exits, lobby areas, elevators, and reception areas.
- Camera views, lighting, and the technical requirements for each camera should vary depending on the subject matter to be monitored by the CCTV system.
- Employees need to know how and why these surveillance systems are actually being used.
- Written consent should be obtained from individuals who may be recorded before monitoring.
- Any business that intends to use video surveillance must inform both its employees and customers of the cameras.
- Appropriate signage should be highlighted if video systems are installed in particular areas.
- Footage should be kept for a minimum of 31 days.
8. Is it legal to monitor private messages and email content?Yes. If the employee accesses private messages and personal emails on a company-owned device, their employer can monitor usage and not content during working hours. Employers should have clear policies to ensure that employees are informed about this and obtain employees' consent. Employees should also be informed that their email could be checked while they are away.
9. Is it legal to monitor employees' personal devices?Yes. It is important to note that if work is carried out on a personal device, the employee can be held accountable to the employer during work hours. Employers may control usage during working hours. Notwithstanding federal Laws, particularly Cybercrime laws, Telecommunications Law, and the Penal Code, prohibits monitoring without the parties’ consent. Articles 9 and 10 of the DIFC Data Protection Law stipulate that the data subject's explicit approval is needed before any personal data may be processed. The DIFC Data Protection Law does not specify how to get consent but mentions that consent should be obtained in writing.
10. Is it legal to monitor employees' personal computers?Yes, The answer is similar to the answer given above. If employees work on a personal computer, their employers can monitor such devices to protect business information. However, the monitoring should not invade capture data on the employee's private life. Adequate measures should be taken to distinguish between personal and business use of the device, and policies should be developed and communicated to employees.
11. Is it required to inform employees of the monitoring?Yes. As stated in most of this article, the UAE constitution requires that employees be properly informed and consent before being monitored. Employers are not allowed to monitor their devices without employees' consent, even if they are company-owned. It is also crucial that employees understand how and why these monitoring devices are being used. If employees do not give their consent, they should not be monitored.
12. Employee monitoring policy - mandatory or not?Yes. Businesses need to ensure transparency when implementing employee monitoring. This can be achieved by creating and distributing comprehensive company policies, handbooks, and consent forms to ensure that employees know the rules and guidelines regarding monitoring and surveillance. Policies should be easy to access and understand.
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Are there UAE laws that protect employee workplace privacy?UAE Federal Laws protect employees because they have a right to privacy. Employers are not permitted to monitor employees if they disagree with the processing of their personal sensitive data. Employers must inform employees about workplace monitoring and obtain their consent before implementing it, according to UAE Federal Laws.
- The UAE Constitution of 1971.
- Both Articles of the Penal Code of 1987.
- The UAE Labour Law of 1980 .
- Federal Decree-Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes.
- The DIFC Data Protection Law 2007 (DIFC Law No.1 of 2007) and its amendments.
- The ADGM Employment Regulations of 2015.
Is there professional lawyers’ advice on monitoring?Lawyers advice that clear and detailed monitoring policies be put in place, that employees be explicitly notified, and that permission be obtained before monitoring solutions are incorporated. Employees should be made aware of the following:
- The fact that they are being monitored.
- The purpose of the monitoring process.
- Noteworthy legitimate reason for monitoring.
- How long the obtained data will be retained.
- Monitoring rights of employees.
- The right to communicate where employees are concerned about monitoring.