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Know Your Rights: Employee Privacy

With the implementation of the new POPI Act in South Africa, in July 2021, the question of employee privacy is forefront for many of us.

As an employee, knowing your rights in the workplace will go a long way in alleviating anxiety around the issue, and may also spare you from, not only embarrassment but even possible job loss.

There is a lot of information out there, but in order to help you navigate your way through it all, we have laid out the basics for you, right here.

Basically, according to POPIA, it all comes down to the contract. Be sure to read through the whole contract before signing, so that you know what type of monitoring or intercepting, and for what purpose, you may be in for.

If you are using a device provided for you by the organization, then it is with the understanding that you will be using it to perform duties for the organization, and on the organization’s behalf.  But your employer does need to stipulate a few key points in your contract with regards to how, and when they may access your work devices and investigate your activity on them.

According to ENSAfrica, the following needs to be stipulated:

  • What will be monitored
  • Why it will be monitored
  • That the employer will not use the monitoring and/or interception of communication on the devices to your detriment or infringe on your rights
  • Whether or not you may engage in outside activities during work hours (specifically commercial pursuits)
  • The purpose of processing your personal data by the organization or another party (Organizations may only process your personal data to assess compliance with their legal and management obligations)

Conclusion

When it comes to employee privacy, an employer has every right, and the responsibility, to check up on communications that are happening within their organization, but this does need to be done in a respectful and transparent manner.  By including a clause in your contract for monitoring and/or interception of communication and data transference, with your consent, your employer is openly telling you that this may happen.

POPIA may seem a little daunting, but in the end, it comes down to respecting people’s privacy, and conducting yourself, your work and your representation of the organization you work for, in an ethical way.

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