A recent case heard in the European Court of Human Rights indicates that employers have the right to monitor communications made by employees, particularly on work devices during work hours.

If you are an employee, does this mean that your employer can monitor you at any time? Not necessarily, however, Australian employees should be aware that employers can monitor email and internet activity. Typically, this is to ensure that employees are actually doing their work rather than browsing on Facebook, chatting on WhatsApp or Instagramming their latte.

However messages sent on your own device and outside of work hours would be a different story. If an employer monitored this correspondence, then it might be in breach of each individual’s right to privacy.

What Happened?

In this case, the court held that it was not a breach of the employees’ human rights for his employer to look at the instant messages. The accounts had been set up for the employee to connect with clients and were sent during work hours. As to the employer’s ability to look at correspondence, clearly work emails and computers used in and out of work hours can be monitored at any time.

As the decision of the European Court of Humans Rights does not apply to Australia, the case provides a reminder as to some practical changes that an employer can make if they are concerned about their employees’ use of technology. Employers in Australia should be more concerned with how employees can misuse technology to affect their productivity and efficiency. Employers should implement a social media and online policy to ensure that employees are aware of their obligations and the employers’ rights.

Social Media and Online Policy

If your staff use social media to promote your brand or connect with clients, you should be sure to provide your staff with guidelines as to how they should present themselves online. Educating your staff can reduce issues later on. Having a policy in place will also assist in dismissal proceedings as you can explicitly identify any breach by the employee. As the line between a work and home life continues to blur, it is important that as an employer, you make your expectations of your employees clear.


If you need assistance drafting a workplace social media policy or have questions about how you can monitor your employees you should seek legal advice. If you are monitoring your employees through additional means such as GPS tracking or other devices, you should be wary and speak to an employment lawyer to ensure you are not breaching any privacy, safety or employment laws.

Questions? Get in touch on 1300 544 755.

Edith Moss
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