With the rising competitiveness in nearly all industries and business types, employers are starting to look for ways to get ahead of the competition. Creativity, innovation and customer relationships can get you far but there’s one more aspect that companies are starting to recognize as extremely important in this pursuit – efficiency and process optimization.
Using computer monitoring software to achieve just that has been on the rise for quite some time now. But still, the fact that it can be used to track browser activity, take screenshots, measure the precise amount of inactive time and so on, has always been a point of contention when it comes to discussing whether employers should have a legal right to such an extensive insight. Things are not that different when it comes to time tracking systems, which often have some similar features.
This is probably the reason why laws and regulations in different countries vary significantly. Having this in mind, we won’t go into any details on the specific cases, but will instead discuss some general principles regarding the legal rules on when and how you can use time tracking and computer monitoring software in the workplace. If, however, you wish to implement one in your offices, you’re strongly encouraged to consult your domestic law regarding this issue before you proceed.
What Are You Allowed to Track?
There are some functionalities of time tracking and computer monitoring software that are permitted by the law in the vast majority of countries. This is grounded in the understanding that when employees are using corporate equipment (in this case, computers) during their office hours, this can’t really be counted as their personal time that deserves full protection from the eyes of their superiors. In fact, employers have the right to know what their employees are doing during this time, at least to some extent. And this extent is what varies.
For example, project analysis resource time tracking software provides is often considered a safe territory for employers. They’re allowed to track the time employees spend on tasks and they can also know what these tasks are. This functionality is critical for effective designer, software developer and CPA time tracking software use, just to name a few. So they can breathe a sigh of relief.
On the other hand, some computer monitoring software features aren’t such clear-cut cases. For instance, using automatic screenshots might be a grey area, since it also works when employees are on a break. This means that you can inadvertently capture their social media feed or even bank account details, which is by many definitions a breach of privacy.
When and Where Can You Monitor Employees?
Another important factor when discussing the legality of employee tracking is when and where it’s allowed to be conducted.
For example, employee time tracking software UK law, while not explicitly forbidding, does require you to have a valid reason for tracking your workers, which could be extremely hard to justify in case you do it outside working hours.
So, while the general rule might be to restrain from using tracking software when employees are at home or when they’re not working, this issue can be made even more complex when you try to factor in remote workers, freelancers and field workers.
Notifying Employees and Asking for Consent
Again, the question of whether you’re required to inform your employees about monitoring is something that’s regulated in different ways across the board. For instance, if you want to use employee monitoring or time tracking software in Canada, you should notify your employees beforehand, but laws in other countries might not always be this explicit, while some may even ask for employees’ consent.
A good rule of thumb is to always tell your employees that they’ll be tracked, regardless of whether or not you’re required to do so by the law. But you should still check the regulations and consult your legal team because some governments prescribe how much in advance this needs to happen and some, as we’ve mentioned, also require employees’ consent in order for the use of computer monitoring software to be considered legal.
So, while you can’t really use employee monitoring and time management software free from every worry, it’s mostly allowed if you genuinely use it for business purposes. However, it’s always advisable to check your local regulations regarding this, just to make sure that your employees’ privacy is completely protected.