Home > Protecting Your Privacy > Personal Possessions in the Workplace

Personal Possessions in the Workplace

By: Matthew Strawbridge - Updated: 19 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Personal Possessions Search Workplace

It is natural to want to bring items from home into your workplace. Some of these are harmless and can help to personalise your working environment, making you feel more at home. For example, potted plants, magazines, sweets and CDs are found in offices up and down the land. However, some other items you may be tempted to bring in to work, such as a credit card bill you want to pay over the phone from your desk, need to be kept confidential and secured.

In this article we will look at what items have the potential to harm your privacy, and what steps you can take to safeguard it. Finally, we will look at the issue of whether your employer is allowed to search you.

Your First Defence

The simplest way to protect personal possessions is to leave them at home. This might seem obvious, but take a moment to think about the personal items that you have recently taken to work. Were they all necessary? Did you bring anything in to work that has the potential to compromise your security? Was there anything containing your home address, telephone number, financial information, PINs or passwords? If so, you were putting yourself at risk.

Identifying Personal Possessions

Any of the following items could compromise your privacy:

  • bank statements or other financial correspondence
  • bills, especially those for credit cards
  • keys to your car or home
  • medical paperwork and prescriptions
  • payslips, assessment forms and other items relating to the terms and conditions of your employment and your performance in your job

Securing Your Belongings

If you feel you must bring personal items to work, and these contain information about you, then you should ensure that they are kept in a secure, locked area. This could be a drawer of your desk or a locker provided by the company. This affords you some defence against all but the most determined thieves.

Do Employers Have the Right to Search You?

Employers should not look through your personal possessions without your prior agreement. In addition, you should be present at the inspection. If someone damages your property during this process, they should pay to have it repaired or replaced.

Anyone frisking you without your consent could be committing assault. At the very least, someone of the same gender as you should carry this out with witnesses present and in accordance with a written policy. If you do not wish to participate, be assertive and stand up for your right to privacy, which is a fundamental human right protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Taking Steps to Protect Yourself

Personal belongings in the workplace are not very safe from prying eyes and fingers. Keeping sensitive materials locked up can help, but a better solution is not to bring them to work at all. If you do have items at work that you wish to keep private, and someone in authority wishes to search you or your possessions, then you have good grounds to refuse unless you have signed up to a policy that explicitly allows these intrusions. By following these steps, you will go a long way towards protecting your privacy in the workplace.

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[Add a Comment]
Vinny - Your Question:
Can my employer insist l put my mobile phone in my locker in work time even though I have explained l am a point of contact in an emergency for my childs school

Our Response:
Does your school have your employer's main line telephone number? If not, then you would need to add this as the main point of contact (should an emergency occur). Your employer can request that you do not use your phone in working hours.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 20-Mar-17 @ 11:31 AM
Can my employer insist l put my mobile phone in my locker in work time even though I have explained l am a point of contact in an emergency for my childs school
Vinny - 19-Mar-17 @ 7:17 AM
My boss has decided after ages that I am no longer allowed to keep my possessions with me in the room I work in. I need to bring them with me to work as I use public transport. He wants me to leave my bag containing all my possessions in the office, in now way secure. The other person works in the office so their belongings are pretty much always with them. Should I be provided legally with a locker to keep my items safe? Not to mention it's a bit embarrassing having to go in the office to get anything I need out of my bag!
Person - 28-Feb-17 @ 4:56 PM
Hi can my employer insist that I download a logging into jobs app on my personal phone and then because I did not log in fail to pay me??? Any help appreciated.
Homecarer - 27-Feb-17 @ 1:37 AM
@Anon- easy way to resolve the issue is don't leave personal belongings in the staffroom. I wouldn't leave my personal belongings lying around if I didn't want them to go missing! AJ
ASh - 8-Feb-17 @ 12:27 PM
Does the employer have any right whatsoever to bin any personal belongings that are left in the staff room? This is driving me mental
Anon - 7-Feb-17 @ 11:03 PM
none - Your Question:
I would like to know I have a locker where I place all my private paper work I don't want to give my locker up due to having my private papers in it and money management have said the locker has to be moved out for staff to use the new unit with 7 drawers I asked if I could have a lock to on the draw and have been told no. I know staff are good I dislike having the drawer unlocked and feel what I have will be searched whenever I'm not on duty. I know there are other staff feeling the same as me about giving up the locker as we all feel the locker is safe and the drawers aren't.

Our Response:
You would have to speak to your employer directly regarding this matter, as it is up to your employer's discretion.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 6-Feb-17 @ 11:01 AM
I would like to know I have a locker where I place all my private paper work I don't want to give my locker up due to having my private papers in it and money management have said the locker has to be moved out for staff to use the new unit with 7 drawers I asked if I could have a lock to on the draw and have been told no. I know staff are good I dislike having the drawer unlocked and feel what I have will be searched whenever I'm not on duty. I know there are other staff feeling the same as me about giving up the locker as we all feel the locker is safe and the drawers aren't.
none - 5-Feb-17 @ 10:55 AM
Can I legally insist that my staff lock their mobile phones away whilst they are on shift? I have provided a lockable cabinet for this.
Lynnyloo67 - 20-Jan-17 @ 5:20 PM
I work with a young lady with learning difficulties. I was taking her to her voluntary job and she ran to get in the car and sat on my phone, smashed screen. My employer is saying they are not responsible as it shouldn't have been on show. It was not in the house it was in my car. Are they correct in what they are saying? I also have to use my phone for work to communicate with the office
Sam - 26-Nov-16 @ 12:33 PM
Had my rucksack stolen from work locker rooms where you were not given keys for lockers that were broke anyway. rucksack contained phone and medicine totalling about £120. Company called syncreon in Hinckley u.k. Dealing with apple products e.g phones laptops. There are 200 cameras there yet can't provide lockers, is this a breach of health and safety and can I make a claim.? P.s this job was via an agency.
Justin - 13-Nov-16 @ 11:44 PM
How about workplace security checking/inspecting the cars' before they leavesite to check for stolen goods? The security company asks for the boot to be opened and to look in and even sometimes for us to open our bags to check in them. Is this a breach of privacy? I don't mind looking in the boot but looking into our open bags and personal possessions seems abit much!
Hayman - 21-Oct-16 @ 6:13 AM
I failed to lock my PC before leaving at the end of my work day and my co worker accessed my ADP and gained information to my pay rate, and all the personal data stored in the ADP system. She then bragged about this horrible act to another co worker. I have reported this to HR after obtaining proof they did nothing but write her upbecause she has been there for years and I have only been there for three months. this happened just 2 days after a compliance meeting. Should I get the EEOC involved or other legal assistance. because I do not feel right about this at all not to mention I think the same employer has vandalized m vehicle
Ann - 16-Oct-16 @ 2:45 AM
Yesterday in my work place 7/10/16 I started my afternoon shift at 2pm.At 4.30pm I was due a break so went to staff room to get my handbag to which was not there just my coat and jumper which was on top of my bag.So I went to report this to the manager which is located downstairs to find she had it in her office under her desk.To which I was then accused of taking a five pound note which she said was upstairs on floor as a trap.I was shouted at and sworn to and then dismissed instuntantly.Please can I get advice on this matter Thanks
Caz - 8-Oct-16 @ 7:47 PM
I have been a small shop 16 years I have 2 lockers one tool and one clothing, a new employee is taking it upon him self to rearrange the area telling me my clothing locker is going to be moved. It's been there a 16 years he has been here one week ! My boss is agreeing with him, this is a power play, should I fold or fight for my right , I'm 59 they all are younger and don't like the fact I have more time then they do I'm in nj working for a state/ federal, nj/ ny charter type business !
Jd - 30-Sep-16 @ 1:06 AM
I'm currently off work due to having had surgery recently. I've been advised by a colleague that my boss has accessed my personal locker in my absence and taken it ipon herself to look through the folders o keep in there and has thrown some of my work papers away. All of this has been done without my knowledge or permission. If i find this to be the case when i return, what action can i take against this invasion of privacy and what essentially feels like stealing? Thanks
Meesh - 10-Sep-16 @ 8:57 AM
jrstu - Your Question:
My employer has changed some rules regarding mobile phones. they now don't want us to have the phone on our person when we are on the shop floor. but they do not provide a personal locker to keep them in. they do however say we have to leave them the the staff room (which is locked but any member of staff can enter the room at any time).i feel like this is wrong and a breach of my right to privacy. I am worried that if I lose my phone or it was stolen I would have no grounds to back me up. does my employer have to provide a safe place to secure my personal items if they don't want me to have them on the shopfloor?lastly I do need to take my phone to work as I use public transport, travel early in the morning and late at night for work (when its dark, in a busy city).

Our Response:
I can only suggest you speak to your employer directly regarding this issue and ask if he/she can allocate a 'safe place' to leave your phones while you are in work.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 9-Sep-16 @ 12:57 PM
my employer has changed some rules regarding mobile phones. they now don't want us to have the phone on our person when we are on the shop floor. but they do not provide a personal locker to keep them in. they do however say we have to leave them the the staff room (which is locked but any member of staff can enter the room at any time). i feel like this is wrong and a breach of my right to privacy. i am worried that if i lose my phone or it was stolen i would have no grounds to back me up. does my employer have to provide a safe place to secure my personal items if they don't want me to have them on the shopfloor? lastly i do need to take my phone to work as i use public transport, travel early in the morning and late at night for work (when its dark, in a busy city).
jrstu - 8-Sep-16 @ 7:15 PM
A coworker claimed he had money stolen from his locker, he blamed it on me and is extorting money from me saying he has witnesses....lol the locker area was unsecured and if anyone leaves their locker unlocked hate to say it but how stupid can you be
Notguilty - 29-Aug-16 @ 4:43 AM
Help.After 5 years as labour hire on fifo roster in Pilbara I was notified I was no longer required.Anyhow iendured5 years of bullying,I wasn't one to partake in drinking etc.It was whilst I was on leave and 1/2 way back when notified.That's fine but they sent my tools to Qld but failed to send personal docs,diary,folders etc. How do I take action for this violation.Police say civil Action! Its not fair,some items priceless.They may have knew of potential future issues.Big miner,who do what they like.help,Any advice appreciated.
Daniel - 5-Aug-16 @ 12:13 PM
I passed out at work and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. My employer went through my backpack where I keep my license and wallet,keys and snacks. I had nothing illegal in there but they are " letting me go" and not saying why. If they claim to have found something then how can I prove therewas nothing? Of course I was not present when it happened. I was in the hospital.
Deathcon - 14-Jul-16 @ 7:25 AM
Iwas searched at work where I was frisked I hated being touched and told my company I was told I had no choice and that the company had the right to touch me. After 5 years someone decided to refuse and then the searches were stopped. I want to take legal action against the company can I do this
hump - 10-Jul-16 @ 11:01 AM
I recently got photographic evidence of my manager going into my bag. Can she be sacked for going through my personal belongings ?
Jen - 7-Jul-16 @ 6:23 PM
Salesman - Your Question:
Hi, I was locked in a cupboard, as my boss was trying to disapline me for something I did and he didn't take it well when I proved it wasn't me. what are my rights with this as I have other issues with regards to my boss, I have paperwork that hes sent off that can only be descriped as slanderous and he sent it there boss. hes also told 2 collegues that they should learn of me then hes going to get rid of me. Where do I stand on this

Our Response:
You would need to give ACAS a call regarding this matter.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 22-Jun-16 @ 2:09 PM
Hi, I was locked in a cupboard, as my boss was trying to disapline me for something I did and he didn't take it well when I proved it wasn't me. what are my rights with this as I have other issues with regards to my boss, I have paperwork that hes sent off that can only be descriped as slanderous and he sent it there boss. hes also told 2 collegues that they should learn of me then hes going to get rid of me. Where do I stand on this
Salesman - 21-Jun-16 @ 7:29 PM
My company kept rejecting my order for a pair of safety shoes, as I work in a kitchen, so I brought in a pair of boots from home.while I was off, the maintenance man unlocked the kitchenstaffs changing room, and threw all the shoes away! I reported this to my manager who didn't want to get involved! I had a go at the maintenance man, saying he had to replaced them- he just laugh! Where do I stand?
Chef - 25-May-16 @ 1:44 PM
After being terminated from work on ill health through stress and bullying from manager can they break into your personnel draw to which I have the key and remove it and box it all up and take it else where for me to collect ??
Terry - 13-May-16 @ 4:17 PM
Hi, I work at a cinema and there's no lockers in the staff room, and I'm not allowed my phone on me, what are my rights as to having personal property protection? Thanks
calvdude - 29-Mar-16 @ 5:10 PM
Ziggy - Your Question:
I was a maintenance supervisor at a travel center. and being in the maintenance department I had to have my own tools to perform the maintenance tasks duties. at the end of each day I place my tools in a locker that was provided. With a lock on the door to secure my tools. I end up going to jail for a month for a mistake warrant back in 2004. I had to spend a whole month in jail to get it cleared. While being incarcerated my locker was broken into and all my tools and belongings were stolen. Is the company I work for responsible in making sure my tools and belongings we're safe and secured.

Our Response:
Your contract may specify whether your tools should have been insured either by you or the company.Therefore, I think this is something you would need to take up with your employer directly.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 17-Mar-16 @ 10:25 AM
Angela - Your Question:
I was employed by a company for 16 years as a property manager. At one point I lived on site and when I moved I had left some of my personal belongings behind in a storage area of the building where I used to live. It had my locks on the door. I resigned quite suddenly from my position in mid January therefore I did not take those belongings with me when I left. I told the owner and the girl who would be taking my place that I would be back at some point to get my stuff however I made no commitment as far as a date goes on when I would be back. Partly due to it being winter time and I would need to somehow get hold of a truck. Anyway, it was brought to my attention last week by one of my former co workers that they had cut my locks off and put new locks on. With no prior warning given to me!! Today I received a letter telling me that I need to have my stuff out by April 10th. letter was received on March 14th, not even 30 days notice and then goes on to tell me I need to call the office to get access as I need an employee with me to when I remove my stuff. Just wondering if anyone knows if this is legal that they just cut my locks off with no prior warning given?? If it was a tenant it wouldn't be.

Our Response:
If your property is on the land your former company, it can do what it likes. I advise you to collect your property before the date given, of you may find that after this date your company will be able to dispose of it as it sees fit.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 16-Mar-16 @ 10:42 AM
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