Know your rights: Surveillance in the workplace

I am working from home during COVID-19. Should my employer have a policy on internet and email usage and what activities are they allowed to monitor when I am working from home?

You have a right to privacy in the workplace. However, your right to privacy is balanced against your employer’s rights to run their business and protect their company.

Your employer should give you their policy on email and internet use in the workplace, including the use of social media. This is known as an Acceptable Usage Policy (AUP). 

When you work from home (also called remote working), your employer should follow the same rules in relation to monitoring your work. This should include telling you:

  • Who is monitoring you
  • What they are monitoring
  • How they are monitoring you
  • When they are monitoring you

Your employer should tell you if they are using employee surveillance software, for example, to track your mouse and keyboard activity, your use of email, social media, files and applications, and so on. This may be contained in a policy provided by the employer.

Monitoring must be necessary, legitimate and proportionate

If your employer wants to monitor your internet use or emails, it must be necessary, legitimate and proportionate.

Necessary: Your employer must be sure that monitoring is necessary. They should consider less intrusive ways of supervising you before deciding on monitoring. For example, blocking websites would be less intrusive – and generally more acceptable – than monitoring your internet search history.

Legitimate: The monitoring should have a legal basis. For example, to make sure employees are not using the internet to download pornography, or to disclose confidential company information to people outside the organisation.

Proportionate: Your employer’s monitoring must be proportionate to the risk of the perceived threat. Proportionality means it must be fair, measured and reasonable in terms of its objectives. Monitoring all of your emails to make sure you are not passing on confidential information about the company would not be proportionate. However, monitoring your emails using an automated system to scan for viruses would probably be considered proportionate.

Read more about surveillance in the workplace.  


You can also get information and advice from:

  • The Citizens Information Phone Service: Call 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am – 8pm
  • Our national call back service: Visit citizensinformation.ie/callback to request a phone call from an information officer

You can continue to contact your local centre by email or phone using the details in the Find a Centre page on citizensinformation.ie.