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Surveillance of employees is becoming more common in the workplace, particularly as more people are working from home.

Employers use everything from CCTV cameras to GPS and data tracking on electronic devices to monitor their employees.

Generally speaking, it is legal for your work to monitor and track your work tasks and your performance (including how you use your work laptop).

That said, your employer does not have an unrestricted right to conduct surveillance on your work laptop, and there are some things you should be aware of regarding your right to privacy.

Check your employment agreement

Firstly, you should review your employment contract or agreement to see if it contains any computer usage and monitoring provisions, especially when working remotely.

Some employment agreements grant employers the right to monitor work-related activities on company-provided equipment, even when used at home. Employers often seek consent from employees for surveillance activities in the agreement or in a separate consent form.

Read your company policies

Your employer may have specific policies in place regarding computer usage and monitoring.

These policies should outline the extent of monitoring, what is considered acceptable and unacceptable behaviour during work hours (whether in the office or at home), and whether you have permission to use your work laptop for personal purposes.

Familiarise yourself with your company’s policies to learn where you stand.

If you are using your work laptop for personal purposes during non-work hours, and you are entitled to do so, your employer should not be tracking your usage.

If they have not previously informed you that using your work laptop for personal use would be monitored, they could be breaching the law.

What is considered reasonable surveillance?

In the absence of anything in your employment agreement or a company policy, employers are generally expected to exercise reasonable and proportionate surveillance activities and to communicate these with employees.

What is reasonable and proportionate would depend on the nature of your work. For example, a bank employee would expect to be subjected to more surveillance than a café worker.

Justifiable reasons for using monitoring devices can include to:

  • check the quality of a product or service,
  • detect theft or fraud,
  • ensure employees are safe at work,
  • ensure employees are complying with company policies – such as social media and privacy policies, and
  • ensure employees are performing at the required level.

Privacy laws

The national Privacy Act doesn’t specifically cover surveillance in the workplace. However, most states and territories have their own legislation that outlines the employers’ right to conduct surveillance.

South Australia

In South Australia, for instance, the Surveillance Devices Act 2016 regulates the use of surveillance devices and it is an offence for a person to knowingly install or use a data surveillance device without the consent of the computer’s owner.


Under Victoria’s Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014, an employer may monitor employees’ internet use to ensure appropriate use, but it could be considered unreasonably intrusive or unfair if done without the employee’s knowledge or consent.


In Queensland, surveillance of employees is not specifically regulated – employers only need to comply with general laws around listening devices, such as the Invasion of Privacy Act 1971 (QLD).

What can I do if I am concerned about my employer monitoring my laptop?

If you have concerns about your employer monitoring your computer use after looking at your contract and the company’s policies, you should raise these concerns with your employer and confirm them in writing.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome, you should seek legal advice, especially if you feel like your job is in jeopardy. An experienced employment lawyer can help you understand and protect your rights as an employee.

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