HR Articles for Small Business
& HR Consultants


HR 101: How to 'Spy' on Your Employees

No Expectation to Workplace Privacy

A survey conducted by the software firm GetApp found that 90% of employers believe it is acceptable to monitor their employee’s communications in the workplace and don’t see it as an invasion of privacy.

Here at ConnectsUs HR, we agree that you as an employer have the right to monitor your employees. Let’s be clear – no one is here to infringe on personal privacy or actually ‘spy’ on employees (we got your attention though, didn’t we?).

No Expectations to Workplace Privacy

Monitoring employees in the workplace is legal. But to properly protect your company and your staff against potential liability you need a bulletproof policy that communicates to employees that they should have no expectation to workplace privacy, and why.

Details are important when balancing employee privacy rights and an employers right to protect company business interests. It can make workplace privacy a complicated issue.

Here’s How We Uncomplicate Things:

1. Be transparent with your policy

Have your employees sign off on an airtight policy that explains the ins and outs of how and why they should have no expectations to workplace privacy. It will have a better effect on company morale if your employees know you’re being transparent with them.

‘No Expectation to Workplace Privacy’ is one of many policies included in our Employee Handbook template. It’s under the Staff Policies section that clearly spells out important conduct expectations from both the employees and employer.

View an excerpt from our No Expectation to Workplace Privacy policy

*Formal Terms & Defintions are capitalized and defined in a seperate section at the end of the Employee Handbook *

2. Sign before hire

It is important that your Employee Handbook is presented together with the Employment Contract Agreement or Independent Contractor Agreement and signed off before the start of their engagement to ensure that the conduct policies are legally enforceable. 

Putting an employee handbook in front of a new hire after they begin work and asking them to sign off on never-before-seen conduct policies essentially changes their employment contract - whether implied or executed. If you find yourself in this situation, it's important to understand the importance of ‘consideration’.

An Increase in Employee Monitoring

The same researchers who conducted the survey mentioned above found that 50% of employers monitor their employee’s communications on a daily or weekly basis. This being almost double the 22.5% employer response from the same survey done in 2015.

So what’s caused the frequency of employee monitoring to increase so significantly?  

1. Technical advancements

Small business owners and managers now have access to various and inexpensive communication apps that offer less invasive methods to easily check in on employee communications.

2. Shifting work culture

Rapid advancements in technology are shifing the workforce into a gig economy that not only accepts but encourages remote work. While these methods of work offer a multitude of opportunities and benefits - for both employer and employee – if employers can’t physically keep tabs on employee progress, they’ll rely on communication tools with built-in surveillance features.

3. Stronger data privacy regulations

Privacy laws are becoming stronger to reflect the staggering amount of personal information being exchanged on the internet every day. With PIPEDA, businesses have no choice but to pay closer attention to how their employees handle sensitive information.

This interesting case where a banking employee accessed an in-laws’ personal account to feed information to a family member reinforces the need for this type of policy.

Main Take Away

No Expectation to Workplace Privacy is a precautionary policy that is becoming increasingly important and common to have employees sign off on as part of their employee manual.

Conduct policies such as this one can often be viewed as a punitive measure. But if communicated clearly and in the right way, at the right time, this policy can assure your employees that it’s in place to protect them, their co-workers, their belongings, and the company’s business interests - protecting everyone against potential liability.  

Download the HR Toolkit for Small Business today to access the Employee Handbook (No Expectation of Workplace Privacy + 150 other policies included).

Sarah Visca
Sarah Visca is the Operations Manager at ConnectsUs HR, a company that provides tools & resources to quickly set up a Human Resources department.  
You can contact her here