Being monitored at work: workers' rights

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Employers might monitor workers. This could be done in various ways, like:

  • CCTV

  • drug testing

  • bag searches

  • checking a worker’s emails or the websites they look at

Data protection law covers any monitoring that involves taking data, images or drug testing.

If workers are unhappy about being monitored, they can check their staff handbook or contract to see if the employer is allowed to do this.

If they’re not, the worker might be able to resign and claim unfair (‘constructive’) dismissal. But this is a last resort - they should try to sort the problem out first - read the advice to help solve a workplace dispute.


Employers should have a written policy on searching. Searches should:

  • respect privacy

  • be done by a member of the same sex

  • be done with a witness present

If a search or drug test is badly handled, workers might have a claim for discrimination, assault or false imprisonment.

For advice about work issues, talk to Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), Citizens Advice or your trade union representative.