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Personal Possessions in the Workplace

By: Matthew Strawbridge - Updated: 20 Sep 2018 | 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]
At my workplace they don't allow us to keep our valuables on us so they provided us with lockers. Today someone broke into my locker and stole my phone and some money. They searched everyone but not their cars, it was reported at the police as well but no luck. The manager says there is nothing more they can do. Is that legal? Since they are making us locking our things in there shouldn't they be responsible for them?
Anas7asia - 20-Sep-18 @ 7:01 PM
While i have been off sick my boss has "sorted through" all of my personal resources and materials in my classroom. Several have been removed from my room to shared storage areas. I was never asked if this was ok, or notified that it would be happening. Is this legal? These are items and paperwork which are my personal property.
Potter - 14-Sep-18 @ 4:05 PM
@Vik - You don't really have any rights regarding this apart from complaining to your boss's line manager regarding her treatment of you.
Annie - 13-Jul-18 @ 12:56 PM
I have my own notebook which I bought when I start to work. My notes like how you do thinks on excel or how you use an account program. I have only a couple of pageswhich show our supplier and one page was on my languae some recipes.Firstly she made a comment that these are not a words. As I am leaving today and my boss yesterday wanted to take my notebook. I told her that is mine. She said I can not take anything from the office. Without my permission she went thru my notebook and rip out all pages. Has she had right to do this and what is my right?
Vik - 13-Jul-18 @ 7:26 AM
Is a manager allowed to go through lockers without any notification, our consent or witness present?
Em - 21-Jun-18 @ 10:53 AM
Dream - Your Question:
If I discover pictures on my phone that I didn't take while my phone was on my desk and find out after filing a complaint with HR I find out it was my executive manager what are my rights?

Our Response:
If you have filed a grievance, please see link here . Mediation is when an independent, impartial third party discusses a problem with you and your employer (or between you and another employee) to try and find a solution. It’s often used after informal discussions haven’t solved the issue.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 12-Jun-18 @ 1:50 PM
If I discover pictures on my phone that I didn't take while my phone was on my desk and find out after filing a complaint with HR I find out it was my executive manager what are my rights?
Dream - 11-Jun-18 @ 8:50 PM
My sore is closing and there selling the lockers on one of my days off my am broke into my locker to move them does he have the right to do this
DJ117 - 2-Jun-18 @ 3:05 PM
Babybodri - Your Question:
I have a question about in my workplace every single day we going true security search on private car. Is there any low what say what is legal to do by security ? Because they keep touch and open our car and we have to step back and watch :/ I'm not happy about it.even they open offen the boot of my car where is the car enginee :(

Our Response:
Much depends upon what it says in your contract of employment and what you have agreed to by signing it.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 31-May-18 @ 11:17 AM
I have a personal diary from 2016 in my tray at work(it has my name on it) that has my personal user names n passwords in ..my direct manager has gone through it and found a swear word in it as my password and taken it to do an investigation and a disiplinary on me..Does she have that right as it is my personal diary in my personal tray.. .she also knew it was my diary ..
Finn - 30-May-18 @ 8:39 PM
I have a question about in my workplace every single day we going true security search on private car. Is there any low what say what is legal to do by security ? Because they keep touch and open our car and we have to step back and watch :/ I'm not happy about it .even they open offen the boot of my car where is thecar enginee :(
Babybodri - 30-May-18 @ 8:30 PM
I left my personal mobile on the office desk and another manager as claimed they have looked at my mobile and accused me of recording her, which is untrue. Can this be classed as an invasion of privacy for looking at my mobile. This seems so wrong
Phil - 23-May-18 @ 8:35 PM
@Sammy - if your manager insists, then even if it is not company policy you kind of have to do what your manager says. Presumably it will be for a valid reason.
Ruthi - 21-May-18 @ 1:59 PM
Can my manager make me put my belongings in a locked locker even if its NOT company policy. I work in a retail store. Thanks
Sammy - 18-May-18 @ 6:28 PM
I have a locker at my work place that I had left some empty pop bottles in and forgot to take them home, now we did sign a letter saying they would be taken home everyday but had a lot of things going on and forgot them. I had a day off work and when I came back my locker was gone through and the bottles were taken and given to someone else. What action can I take here
Frustrated - 4-May-18 @ 6:27 PM
StB, I understand that an apology is probably all I will get but it just seems that this is another layer of a multilayered cake of malpractice that’s continues to happen at my place of work, by this particular person so I’m not too sure what to do! Thanks for your reply anyway ??
Wizzle - 26-Apr-18 @ 11:56 PM
@Wizzle - Of course you have grounds to complain. However, it's unlikely you will get more than an apology. So, it's whether complaining is worth the hassle of doing so in order to get not very much back in return.
StB - 23-Apr-18 @ 11:22 AM
Hi, we have had an office change, this was supposed to happen at the beginning of the year but has been put back many times! I was recently on leave, and while I wasn’t at work my locker, along with my colleagues lockers, were opened and had the possessions taken out for the move and haphazardly put back in! Now, I wasn’t informed this was going to happen, nothing has ever stopped the company contacting me while not at work before, my belongings were moved without my consent, and my privacy invaded. Do I have grounds to complain?
Wizzle - 22-Apr-18 @ 2:14 PM
Spider - Your Question:
I work for a local authority. Currently I have a small locker in which I keep my work laptop, rain jacket, stationary, mug, notes and training documentation etc.I have been informed by my line manager to empty my locker and return my key. This is so that my locker can be allocated to new staff joining our office.Is my employer obliged to provide me a locker for private /work items? We have a clear desk policy and my laptop goes into my locker when I leave the office. If I cannot secure this item who will know be liable if it stolen?Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

Our Response:
You would have to discuss this with your employer/line manager directly. Individual companies have individual policies in their workplace.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 6-Apr-18 @ 2:00 PM
@Fran - you can make a complaint - but I don't know how far it would get you. If you were on maternity leave then you should have made sure you cleared your desk. You can't expect your employer to keep stuff if you have been off for months. It's up to you to look after your own stuff really.
HR - 3-Apr-18 @ 12:24 PM
I went on maternity leave and left personal possessions at work including pay slips and sensitive information in my desk drawer. It also included irreplaceable items such as photos and trinkets. On return it has disappeared and no one has admitted to touching it. My boss says she assumes it has been destroyed. Can I make a complaint?
Fran - 2-Apr-18 @ 8:30 AM
I work for a local authority. Currently I have a small locker in which I keep my work laptop, rain jacket, stationary, mug, notes and training documentation etc. I have been informed by my line manager to empty my locker and return my key. This is so that my locker can be allocated to new staff joining our office. Is my employer obliged to provide me a locker for private /work items? We have a clear desk policy and my laptop goes into my locker when I leave the office. If I cannot secure this item who will know be liable if it stolen? Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
Spider - 30-Mar-18 @ 10:53 PM
@Carolyn -If your work was having a clear out, it may have mistakenly put your personal item in a bag to go to charity. But I don't know what you imagine you can propose to do about it?
Jimnh - 29-Mar-18 @ 9:16 AM
Can my workplace give away my own personal work mug to charity without my knowledge ? Many thanks
Carolyn - 28-Mar-18 @ 4:03 PM
scouse - Your Question:
My work place are saying they want everyone to hand there car keys,in when we all clock in to work and get them back when we clock out is this illegal

Our Response:
It is not illegal, given your employer has given a good reason. Much depends upon whether you and/or the other employees agree with this measure. If you don't, then you would have to try to solve this problem informally by talking to your manager. If you cannot resolve the issue, then you can make a formal grievance complaint in writing. Please see link here .
EmployeePrivacyRights - 2-Mar-18 @ 1:56 PM
My work place are saying they want everyone to hand there car keys,in when we all clock in to work and get them back when we clock out is this illegal
scouse - 27-Feb-18 @ 8:55 PM
I was let go today because my manager read something I wrote in a personal notebook of mine and was offended. She had NO right to read what I had written in a personal notebook but did so without consent. After reading the first few words and realizing it was not about work she should have stopped but she didn't. Instead she kept going and now I don't have a job. I think its fair to say that if she had not invaded my personal space and read what I had written in a personal notebook I would still have my job. Am I in the right about this or am I just being oversensitive?
Human - 16-Feb-18 @ 5:00 PM
My employers informed me that they sent a copy of one of my pay slips to a previous employee. It has my national insurance number and pay details. They've said that the person they sent it to has destroyed the slip sent to them. They can't prove it so what legal steps can I take against them?
Indie - 29-Jan-18 @ 1:57 PM
Rich - Your Question:
I work at a shop which everyone has there own tools and and you lock them when you are not there. I have 4 tool boxes and all 4 have been broke into by the boss and he is the owner he told one other worker he was looking for something he thot I had taken which is false as I am not a thief and I hate them. so as I go on at home my stuff wasbcover outside in rain o was clean up and I had valuble base ball football and basketball rookie cards I show them to him they were all in thick plastic snap together protectors after I show he gets all excited and wants me to sign them over to and we sell and split the money I laugh and say no I put them in my toolbox and left them now I lock that and open once in a while so I open and cards are gone when I tell him he threw a fit and started rambling on he took my cards broke into my box and broke in all of them and he thinks its funny he has tools and switched them on and caught him as I habe my name engraved on them he steals he is a thief and he denies this but other habe seen him do it what can do the cards he took I believe he sold to his brother inlaw. My my is the. The owner what shpuld I do

Our Response:
I can only answer your question if you are in the UK, as we only have knowledge of British workplace rights and it does not sound as though you are. Unfortunately, you would have to seek some advice in your own country. We hope you manage to resolve these issues.
EmployeePrivacyRights - 19-Jan-18 @ 11:39 AM
I work at a shop which everyone has there own tools and and you lock them when you are not there. I have 4 tool boxes and all 4 have been broke into by the boss and he is the owner he told one other worker he was looking for something he thot I had taken which is false as I am not a thief and I hate them. so as I go on at home my stuff wasbcover outside in rain o was clean up and I had valuble base ball football and basketball rookie cards I show them to him they were all in thick plastic snap together protectors after I show he gets all excited and wants me to sign them over to and we sell and split the money I laugh and say no I put them in my toolbox and left them now I lock that and open once in a while so I open and cards are gone when I tell him he threw a fit and started rambling on he took my cards broke into my box and broke in all of them and he thinks its funny he has tools and switched them on and caught him as I habe my name engraved on them he steals he is a thief and he denies this but other habe seen him do it what can do the cards he took I believe he sold to his brother inlaw. My my is the. The owner what shpuld I do
Rich - 18-Jan-18 @ 5:43 AM
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