Employee monitoring has become a common practice in many organisations around the world, including South Africa. This is due to the increasing use of computers and the internet in the workplace, which has created new opportunities for employees to engage in activities that are unrelated to their work responsibilities. However, the legality of employee monitoring in South Africa has been a subject of debate for some time. In this article, we will explore the legality of employee monitoring on computers in South Africa, the pros and cons of employee monitoring, the benefits to companies, and how the POPI act applies to employee monitoring.
Legality of Employee Monitoring in South Africa
The South African constitution guarantees the right to privacy, which means that employers cannot monitor their employees without their consent. However, this right is not absolute, and employers have the right to monitor their employees’ activities on company-owned computers as long as they do so in compliance with the law.
The Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act (RICA) regulates the interception of communication in South Africa, and it applies to employee monitoring.
Employers must obtain their employees’ consent before monitoring their communications, and the monitoring must be for a legitimate business purpose.
Employee monitoring has been in existence for many years, the most common being where companies have an IT policy which allows them to monitor work devices; their IT department has access to and can give access to other people’s emails.
Also consider how telephone management systems provide vital data around employee usage of these systems to provide insight into how employees can improve and to minimise the risks to business of using company assets like voice costs for personal usage.
Most companies also monitor inappropriate usage of the internet with Firewalls that identify and blog threats via firewalls.
Without management of a company’s assets and the time spent on work activities, companies cannot drive efficiencies within their business.
The importance of Employee Monitoring
Employee monitoring has many advantages including:
- Increased productivity: Employee monitoring can help to increase productivity by ensuring that employees are working on tasks related to their job responsibilities.
- Improved security: Employee monitoring can help to improve security by identifying potential security breaches and preventing them from happening.
- Compliance: Employee monitoring can help organizations to comply with legal and regulatory requirements, such as those related to data protection and security.
POPI Act and Employee Monitoring
The Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) regulates the processing of personal information in South Africa. Employee monitoring is subject to the POPI act, and companies must ensure that they comply with its provisions. Employers must obtain their employees’ consent before monitoring their activities, and they must ensure that the monitoring is necessary for a legitimate business purpose. Additionally, employers must ensure that they process employees’ personal information in compliance with the POPI act.
Does WorkStatz meet the criteria of PoPIA?
WorkStatz software meets the criteria contained within the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) which governs the right to privacy including the unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information.
The employer should refrain from monitoring employee activities ‘after hours’ as it may contravene the ‘business rational exception.’ If your working hours are flexible, the employer may meet the legal threshold to monitor employee communication after hours.
- The WorkStatz tool tracks active screen time during working hours, including time spent, the application name, file name or website name only.
- Does not keystroke track nor take video or camera footage of the user on that device.
- We have no visibility into the actual contents within and therefore do not store that information on WorkStatz servers, meeting the requirements of PoPIA to protect the personal data of our employees.
- WorkStatz also does not process any credit card information or banking information of our employees, other than the names of employees provided by your company upon setup.
Why Employees Should Embrace Employee Monitoring
Employees should embrace employee monitoring because it can help to improve productivity, security, and compliance in the workplace.
- By ensuring that employees are working on tasks related to their job responsibilities, employee monitoring can help employees to achieve their goals and objectives.
- Additionally, employee monitoring can help to identify potential security breaches and prevent them from happening, which can help to protect employees and the company.
- Finally, employee monitoring can help to ensure that the company complies with legal and regulatory requirements, which can help to protect employees’ personal information.
Employee monitoring is a common practice in many organisations in South Africa, but it must be done in compliance with the law. Legally most employers can monitor what employees do while working as long as it is for legitimate business purposes, or they have the employees’ consent. If an employee decides to engage in personal activities during business hours, it is at their own risk.