Is My Employer Allowed To Monitor My Computer Use?

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Home > Blog > Is My Employer Allowed To Monitor My Computer Use?

As working from home maintains its popularity amongst workers seeking flexibility, employers are increasingly ramping up their surveillance of employees. Various methods, including data and GPS tracking software being installed on work devices to CCTV used on premises when employees are on-site, are relied upon by organisations wishing to keep track of how their workers are using their time.

As these methods become more widely known, the question arises of whether or not employers are allowed to monitor their employees’ computer use.

Here’s what you need to know about an employer’s right to conduct surveillance on their employee’s computer usage.

Is it legal for an employer to monitor computer use?

It is usually within the rights of the employer to track your work where it relates to performance, including how and when you use your devices. However, that does not mean your employer has an unfettered right to monitor your work laptop, phone, or other devices.

Become familiar with company policies

Before anything else, you should check your company policies to see what they say about workplace surveillance. It may be that a policy relating solely to computer monitoring already exists, or that the topic is covered under a policy related to the use of organisation-issued devices or another technology-related policy.

A well-written policy will cover what type of monitoring the organisation is able to undertake, what is considered acceptable and unacceptable behaviour by employees during work hours (both in the office and while working from home), and the organization’s stance on personal use of devices it issues to its employees.

Familiarising yourself with the relevant policies will help you to understand your rights, including if you are in breach of the policy or if your employer has gone above what would be considered reasonable monitoring.

If the policy explicitly states that you are entitled to use your work laptop for personal purposes during non-work hours, it might be unreasonable for your employer to be tracking your usage.

Review your employment contract

A review of your employment contract may reveal that computer usage and monitoring were outlined for when you commenced employment. These types of provisions are becoming increasingly common in employment contracts, especially for roles that can be worked remotely.

Sometimes a separate surveillance consent form is issued upon commencement with an organisation, and you may also find that you entered into an agreement about acceptable use of work-issued devices, social media and the monitoring of those devices when you first joined the company.

Is workplace surveillance ever considered reasonable?

It may be completely justifiable for your employer to monitor your work devices. With data breaches and cybersecurity being a key concern for Australian businesses, it is not unreasonable for organisations to exercise caution over the types of websites their staff may be visiting or downloads they are making to work-issued devices. This is just one example of reasonable grounds for employee surveillance. Others include:

  • ensuring a quality product or service is being delivered;
  • if theft or fraud is detected;
  • ensuring that employees are safe at work and protecting the safety of others (e.g. harmful material is not being shared); and
  • ensuring compliance with company policies.

Do I have any legal options if my employer is monitoring my work computer?

If you suspect that your employer is monitoring your work computer and this raises concerns for you, you should air your grievances with your employer in writing. It would be prudent to seek the advice of an employment lawyer in Cairns who is experienced in dealing with workplace relations and can help you understand your rights as an employee and the best course of action against workplace surveillance.

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