28 Nov How can employers monitor employees fairly?
With hybrid and flexible working patterns becoming more prevalent, employers who are keen to maintain pre-pandemic productivity levels are investing in new tools, software and processes to ensure that staff can work as effectively from home or other remote locations as they would in the office. There are advantages to a business having staff on flexible working patterns and working away from the office, as they can reduce their carbon footprint by downsizing to smaller premises or sharing workspace with other businesses, reduce their heating and electricity bills and have people working at hours that are more convenient to overseas partners, contractors and clients.
However, should an employer be dissatisfied with the productivity and output of their workforce, they may consider different methods of restoring efficiency. This may require staff to return to the office or more usual working patterns. However, where this is no longer feasible due to the size of the premises or availability of desk space, they may begin to consider ways of monitoring their employees as a way of increasing productivity, motivating staff and ensuring that the remote working practices that they have implemented are effective and appropriate.
Monitoring Employees Fairly
With evidence demonstrating that, on the whole, allowing staff to work from home actually increases productivity , employers must have a valid reason for implementing employee monitoring, choose their method of monitoring carefully, and apply it equally to their entire workforce. They should ensure that all staff understand why it is being implemented, what behaviours or issues the monitoring is attempting to identify or resolve, how the data gathered will be handled and what the impact will be should monitoring uncover an issue.
If staff are not fully briefed and accepting of the monitoring solution that is to be applied, it may have the opposite effect to that intended, eroding trust, reducing morale and affecting staff mental health. Equally, if a particular demographic is targeted, the business will be discriminating against members of their workforce which, if disciplinary action was then taken against the targeted employees as a result of information uncovered by the monitoring, could put the business at risk of a constructive dismissal claim.
Constructive dismissal describes a situation where an employee leaves their job due to the unreasonable or unfair behaviour of their employer, as explained at https://www.employmentlawfriend.co.uk/constructive-dismissal. In a situation where employee monitoring is used by the business which leads to staff feeling victimised, discriminated against or directly creates a breakdown of trust, that business could be at risk of the employee commencing a case against them.
This delicate situation could have severe financial and reputational consequences for a business so it is always worth carefully balancing the need for employee monitoring with the risks of implementing it. If a decision is made to proceed, ensure that it is rolled out fairly, used appropriately and that employees are included in the decision-making process.
By giving employees the opportunity to raise concerns and contribute to discussions ahead of rolling out employee monitoring, they are less likely to be intimidated by the decision to implement this strategy. In updating and expressly including employee monitoring processes in the business’ HR policy, the business will be better able to protect itself against unintended consequences.