Privacy: What Every Employee Needs to Know
There are key facts that an employee should know about his or her privacy rights. The following is a quick reference guide. For more detail, see the articles on this website.
Alcohol and Drug TestingIn the transport industry, there are legal limits on alcohol and drug use. Other industries such as construction, distribution, and utilities have alcohol and drug testing policies. To prevent misunderstandings, an employee should ask to see the employer’s policy.
CCTVEmployers install CCTV to protect stock and ensure staff security. It is not usual to set up CCTV in private areas such as staffrooms. If CCTV use is excessive, an employee should speak to the employer.
Contact at HomeUnless there’s a special arrangement in place, an employer should not phone a member of staff out of hours at home. To prevent this, employees can refuse to reveal their home phone numbers.
Furthermore, an employer should not make an uninvited visit to a staff member’s home.
Data Protection ActAll employees, as well as employers, have obligations under the Data Protection Act. Employees, for instance, must treat all personal data with respect.
Employees must take note of their employers’ Data Protection policies.
Employer PrivacyEvery company must keep certain business matters private. Employees must respect a company’s need to maintain privacy for the sake of commercial success.
To ensure privacy, an employer may ask staff to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). This is common practice in some industries.
Medical MattersSome employees may have mental health problems, or physical disabilities. If so, employers must keep the details confidential.
Employers must also not discriminate against anyone with special needs.
Pay and BonusesSalary and bonuses are a private matter between an employee and the employer.
Personal EmailWorkplace IT staff can usually access employee emails. They may not do so regularly – or ever, in fact – but the possibility exists.
To avoid conflict, an employee must check his or her employer’s policy on sending and receiving personal emails.
Personal InformationEmployees have the right to see the personal information employers keep about them. Employers should also have a mechanism for employees to correct this information if it is wrong or out of date.
PhotosAn employer may want a photo of every employee for security purposes. There is no automatic right, however, for an employer to use an employee’s photo for other reasons such as promotional material. An employer should first seek an employee’s permission.
Private Phone CallsAn employee should check the company policy on making and receiving private phone calls.
An employee should not assume the policy doesn’t apply to private calls made and received on a mobile phone during working hours.
An employee has a right to make outgoing calls without the employer recording the calls.
Searching Private PossessionsSome people work in businesses where searching coats, bags, and so forth is an accepted security practice. Company privacy policies should reflect this.
Apart from these organisations, employers do not have the right to search private possessions.