Is Employee Monitoring Permitted in India?

In modern workplaces, employee monitoring has become common practice. A vast number of employers are using some kind of monitoring tools and software in the workplace to boost team performance
Image used for representational purpose only. (Photo | Pexels)
Image used for representational purpose only. (Photo | Pexels)

In today’s modern workplaces, employee monitoring has become common practice. A vast number of employers are using some kind of monitoring tools in the workplace to boost team performance.

These solutions range from CCTV surveillance to tools of varying sophistication that can monitor employees devices, emails, social media, and more.

As more employers turn to monitoring, some employees have wondered about the legal issues that surround the practice. What can and can’t be monitored? What activities are permitted? What can employers see? Just to name a few.

All valid questions. Let’s take a look at the different types of monitoring to see what it is that employers are permitted to monitor, and what the law requires from them.

The Issue of Workplace Privacy

Article 21 of the Constitution of India states that privacy is a fundamental right, but that it is not an absolute right, and that it “may be lawfully restricted for the prevention of crime, disorder or protection of health or the protection of other’s right and freedom.”

This constitutional principle is a foundational point for employee monitoring. When it comes to monitoring in the workplace, employees’ shouldn’t expect total privacy, since employers have the right to monitor emails and internet usage if they have a valid business purpose. For instance, to protect company data.

Business phone calls can also be monitored for company-related purposes. But personal calls made in the workplace can’t. Therefore, employees can and should expect some privacy at work when it’s related to private matters.

Monitoring Employee Communications

If employees are working on company-provided equipment, they agree that these devices will be used primarily for business purposes. In this instance, the employer has the right to monitor communications on the company-owned devices -- but not without following some ground rules.

Most importantly, employees must be notified that monitoring is taking place on their device. This means that they have every right to know what type of monitoring you’re using, why, and how you’ll store and use the data. 

Since India doesn’t have specific laws detailing workplace monitoring practices, the government recommends employers strike a balance between employees’ right to privacy and the company’s legitimate interests.

Monitoring Daily Activities

Just like with monitoring employees’ communication, anytime employees are working on company equipment, their employer has a legitimate reason for monitoring their daily activities.

This doesn’t necessarily call on employers to monitor every single activity during the course of a workday. Discretion is key.

Take for instance a monitoring software like Workpuls, which allows employers to capture screenshots to provide updates about what employees are working on. It’s a good idea to deactivate these screenshots for some apps and websites.

For example, it’s common for employees to log into their bank account or attend to private matters during the day, and a mis-timed screenshot could capture private or even sensitive information on their screen.

The Information Technology (IT) Act 2000 and Sensitive Personal Data or Information (SPDI) cover certain aspects of personal data capture. While this legislation doesn’t explicitly deal with employee surveillance and employee monitoring, it does outline what is permitted in terms of data collection, storage, access and protection -- and this should be the starting point for employers using monitoring software.

Employee Notification and Monitoring Policies

Employers in India are required to let their employees know about their use of employee monitoring software. Best practice for employers is to create an easy-to-access employee monitoring policy that clearly outlines company policies and monitoring practices.

Your monitoring policies should detail which software you’re using and why as a starting point. It’s also critical to include the type of data that’s being collected, how it will be used, accessed, and stored.

Further, robust policies must, due to SPDI requirements, outline any third-party involvement in the data collection process, as well as the security measures you’ll take to safeguard data.

Generally, it’s a good idea to have employees sign a consent form that confirms their acceptance of on-the-job monitoring. It’s also recommended that they have an option to opt-out if they don’t want a third-party to have access to their data.

Final Thoughts

These are just some of the basic regulations regarding employee monitoring. If you’re an employer, it’s strongly recommended that you talk to local employment law experts and lawyers who are familiar with data privacy and protection.

With informed input from legal experts, you’ll be in a position to safely, securely and effectively and instal employee monitoring software, whether that’s Workpuls or otherwise.

Disclaimer: This content is distributed by Workpuls. No TNIE Group journalist is involved in the creation of this content.

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