Institute of Directors warns against ‘Stasi-style’ surveillance of employees

IoD warns employers of "Stasi-style" surveillance of employees. Photo credit: Adam Peck/PA Wire

IoD warns employers of "Stasi-style" surveillance of employees. Photo credit: Adam Peck/PA Wire

1
Have your say

Employers should not routinely snoop on their employees communications at work, after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that a company in Romania did not breach the privacy rights of an employee by monitoring their personal online communications, the Institute of Directors (IoD) has said.

The ECHR ruled that a company in Romania didn’t breach the privacy rights of a worker after it monitored his Yahoo Messenger account. The man’s employer confronted him with 45 pages of messages that he had exchanged with his brother and fiancee using a work computer during work hours. He set up the Yahoo account at his employers’ request to talk to professional clients, according to the Financial Times.

Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, arrives to deliver the welcoming address to the IoD convention at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Picture date: Tuesday October 6, 2015. Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, arrives to deliver the welcoming address to the IoD convention at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Picture date: Tuesday October 6, 2015. Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

He complained that the snooping was a breach of his privacy but the ECHR rejected his claims, saying it was not “unreasonable” for an employer to verify that employees are completing their professional tasks during work hours.

Simon Walker, director general at the IoD, urged businesses not to read employees personal emails. Mr Walker said: “Employees should not be subject to Stasi-style surveillance at work. We would strongly urge businesses not to read an employee’s personal messages apart from in the most exceptional circumstances.”

Technology has increasingly blurred the lines between work and personal life, with many employees taking work home with them as well as dealing with personal communications in the work environment.

This is further complicated by the rise of remote working enabled by technology.

Employees should not be subject to Stasi-style surveillance at work.

Simon Walker, director general at the IoD

“This decision seems to come from a lost era when everybody punched in to work at nine and out again at five,” Mr Walker said.

He added: “The lines between home life and work have blurred over the years, and people now expect to be more flexible with when they answer emails or work from home. Employers have also become more flexible, allowing people to check personal emails or use social media, because they recognise that if employees feel trusted, it will have positive knock-on effects for the business.”

“The circumstances would have to be very severe indeed to justify an intrusion like this into the private life of a member of staff.”

Are employers right to snoop on employees during work hours? Tell us what you think. Tweet @YPBiz

Back to the top of the page