In today’s workplace, employers are incredibly conscious of the way personal data is used. Organisations are aware that GDPR is not just about customer data, it is also important to respect the privacy of employees and protect their personal information. How data is processed needs to be made clear, as the lines can be blurred between personal and work life.
As new technology is introduced into the workplace, this can allow potentially invasive monitoring. Employers are able to track employees not just in the workplace but potentially in their homes through many different devices including smartphones, tablets and wearable devices (such as smart watches).
Many employers are unaware of their employee’s rights when it comes to privacy and other issues in the workplace. A perfect example of this grey area is illustrated in the case Garamukanwa v UK case. In this case, it was found that an employee’s right to privacy was not breached when his employer relied on data found on his phone during a police investigation. There were allegations of harassment against the employee by another colleague.
Mr Garamukanwa worked for the [INSERT NAME] NHS Trust. He was was suspended for harassing and stalking a colleague and also sending anonymous malicious emails to other employees.
The Trust began an internal investigation and disciplinary proceedings, ending in Mr Garamukanwa’s dismissal for gross misconduct.
Mr Garamukanwa brought unfair dismissal proceedings and also argued the Trust had breached Article 8 of the ECHR (the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence) because it had used matters which related to his private life as evidence to justify his dismissal.
Despite being unsuccessful in both the Employment Tribunal and the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Mr Garamukanwa eventually brought proceedings for breach of his right to privacy in the European Court of Human Rights. The Court dismissed the claim and established there had been no breach of Mr Garamukanwa’s right to privacy under Article 8 of the ECHR.
What can you learn as an employer?
Employees always have a reasonable expectation of privacy over communications, this includes emails which are sent from a business email and include work matters. Of course, this depends on the specific circumstances and facts, with an assessment having to be made.
An employer needs to follow the guidelines outlined in the Human Rights Act and respect the private life of an employee. Throughout the working day, employees are allowed by law to use telephone and email for private purposes, but this is still within reason. Abuse of this right can lead to a reprimand and possible disciplinary action. Employees should be told about the organisation’s rules on the use of communication tools in the workplace when starting their employment, so they can act accordingly.
How can Nationwide Employment Lawyers help you?
Our team are experienced in advising and representing employers in Employment Tribunal claims – having practiced at the highest levels. We understand how stressful and time-consuming it can be dealing with an employment law issue, which is why you can rest assured that our extensive experience, commitment, knowledge of the law as well as our sound judgement will help you.
For more information, please get in touch with us by giving us a call on 020 8263 6080 or you can complete the contact form on our website and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.