September 30, 2023

In right this moment’s digital age, employers have a reputable curiosity in monitoring their staff‘ web actions, because the overwhelming majority of enterprise actions happen by means of the web these days. The web is a instrument that has enormously elevated productiveness. Nonetheless, with an unlimited quantity of data out there on-line, it’s straightforward for workers to turn into distracted and lose focus, impacting productiveness and office effectivity.

In excessive instances, the inaccurate use of the web by an worker could cause severe offence to different staff, injury the corporate’s repute, or end in authorized motion. Nonetheless, there’s a advantageous line between sustaining a safe work atmosphere and invading worker privateness by checking their browser historical past. The query that arises is whether or not employers are legally allowed to verify their worker’s looking historical past.

On this article, we’ll focus on whether or not employers can legally verify their staff’ looking historical past, why employers verify their staff’ looking historical past, the regulation governing whether or not employers can verify their staff’ looking historical past, measures you’ll be able to take to forestall offensive conduct and solutions to different steadily requested questions.

Learn alongside!

Can Employers Legally Verify Their Worker’s Searching Historical past?

The quick reply to this query is sure. Normally, employers can legally verify their staff’ looking historical past. Nonetheless, there are some issues to remember earlier than you verify your worker’s looking historical past.

What are the first issues employers ought to consider earlier than checking their worker’s looking historical past?

The first issues employers ought to take into accout earlier than checking their worker’s looking historical past embrace the next:

  • Firstly, employers are legally required to tell their staff of any monitoring that takes place and procure their consent the place vital
  • Employers are legally required to restrict their monitoring to what’s fairly wanted for reputable enterprise functions, for instance, to make sure productiveness or to forestall misconduct
  • Employers could be held liable in the event that they breach their staff’ privateness rights or have interaction in discriminatory monitoring practices 
  • Staff are entitled to entry their private data held by their employer, which can embrace their looking historical past if it has been collected
  • Your online business ought to have a transparent coverage of the monitoring actions which are undertaken in order that your staff are conscious of the actions and they also know what actions are allowed and which actions are prohibited

set clear expectations along with your staff about checking their looking historical past? 

The very best apply recognised by Fair Work Australia and the Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 is to have a transparent IT coverage in place. Section 12 of the Workplace Surveillance Act 2005 states the 2 necessities that employers should meet to have the ability to legally perform surveillance of their worker’s laptop. The necessities are as follows:

  • The surveillance should be carried out in accordance with the employer’s coverage relating to laptop surveillance of staff at work
  • Staff should be given advance discover of the coverage in order that it may be fairly assumed that they know and perceive it.

Having a transparent IT coverage is helpful as a result of it units clear expectations in your staff in regard to their utilization of the web. Subsequently, staff will know what they’re allowed and what they’re not allowed to do. It’s essential for any IT coverage to incorporate provisions relating to acceptable use. 

There are a variety of things these provisions ought to handle, together with the next:

  • Use of web assets – resembling business-licensed software program or chat instruments resembling Slack and Google Hangouts.
  • Inappropriate materials – what’s prohibited.
  • Use of apparatus – protecting the usage of gear like work computer systems and tablets
  • Monitoring – what the employer screens. This commonly consists of looking historical past and the usage of web supplies
  • Disciplinary Penalties – penalties for breaching the IT coverage
  • The rights of the corporate to observe, entry, or file IT assets and gear
  • Requirements of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the usage of IT assets
  • The circumstances beneath which staff may be liable for his or her inappropriate use of computer systems, the web, e-mail, or voice communications 

These provisions clearly define worker obligations relating to web use and employer rights to observe and self-discipline workers for misuse. If what you are promoting doesn’t have an IT Coverage, you must use Lawpath’s IT Coverage template to get began.

Why do employers entry looking historical past?

There are two key the explanation why it is crucial for employers to entry the looking historical past of their workers. These are the next: 

  1. To make sure that what their staff are looking doesn’t have an effect on the enterprise’ actions/productiveness.
  2. Defend towards legal responsibility in office incidents.

Productiveness Points

Employers could conduct random audits of workers looking historical past to make sure they’re complying with the enterprise IT coverage. Random audits could also be performed if there’s a drop in enterprise productiveness or just on a periodic foundation. By checking worker looking historical past, employers can monitor worker productiveness and make sure that they aren’t losing time on non-work-related actions.

Office Incidents

Alternatively, it could be essential for employers to entry worker looking historical past when there was an incident. It’s because establishing a breach by an worker of firm coverage could be essential in avoiding legal responsibility for worker actions. For instance, an worker could have accessed inappropriate materials resembling pornography or abhorrently violent materials while at work and/or on a enterprise system. 

If one other worker makes the allegation that this passed off and was offensive, accessing looking historical past could also be essential in proving that it really did and instituting subsequent disciplinary motion towards the offender. A failure to take action might open up the employer to legal responsibility beneath sexual harassment laws for permitting the conduct.

What are different causes employers would possibly select to verify their staff’ looking historical past?

Different causes employers could select to verify their staff’ looking historical past embrace the next: 

  • To make sure that staff are utilizing firm assets for work-related functions and never for private use
  • To stop staff from accessing inappropriate or unlawful content material, resembling pornography or pirated software program
  • To guard the corporate’s community from malware or viruses that could be downloaded from unsafe web sites.
  • To stop potential misconduct, resembling harassment or discrimination, that will happen on-line
  • To make sure compliance with firm insurance policies and business rules
  • To guard the corporate’s repute by making certain that staff should not partaking in actions that would injury the corporate’s picture
  • To trace staff who could also be trying to steal or leak firm confidential data
  • To make sure that staff should not partaking in actions that could be dangerous to their very own well-being or that of others, resembling cyberbullying
  • Employers could monitor looking historical past to establish areas the place staff might have extra coaching or assist, resembling in the usage of specific software program or instruments

keep away from unfair dismissal when disciplining staff for inappropriate web use?

Worker web use could be irritating, opposite to enterprise pursuits, or fully unlawful on the far finish of the spectrum. Nonetheless, in lots of instances, employers should be cautious to adjust to the necessities prescribed by Fair Work Australia to keep away from instances of unfair dismissal.

Normally, in accordance with section 385 of the Fair Work Act, dismissals should not be unduly harsh, unjust, or unreasonable. To keep away from unfairly dismissing staff for his or her web use, employers ought to do the next:

  • Have a transparent IT coverage in place as a part of the employment contract that units out worker obligations and descriptions acceptable and unacceptable web use. The coverage must be simply accessible.
  • Guarantee staff are conscious of the coverage and educated on its which means
  • Monitor for breaches and apply the coverage in a constant and honest method throughout all staff.
  • The place much less severe/first breaches happen, concern a proper warning
  • The place extra severe/repeat breaches happen, notify the worker of their conduct and provides them an opportunity to reply previous to dismissal. Staff can reply by means of an off-the-cuff or formal assembly
  • Employers ought to examine issues completely earlier than taking disciplinary motion. They’ll do that by reviewing web utilization, interviewing witnesses and gathering related proof
  • Employers ought to guarantee that the disciplinary motion they take is proportionate to the misconduct. They’ll do that by contemplating the severity of the misconduct, the worker’s disciplinary file, and any mitigating components earlier than deciding on the suitable disciplinary motion
  • Employers ought to present staff with the suitable to enchantment any disciplinary motion taken

If you’re having points with an worker whose use of the web is opposite to your IT coverage, you’ll be able to all the time rent an employment lawyer to debate what to do and to obtain recommendation about what disciplinary motion must be taken to keep away from unfair dismissal claims.

Which legal guidelines govern whether or not staff can verify their worker’s looking historical past?

There are a number of legal guidelines in Australia that govern whether or not an employer can verify their worker’s looking historical past. These embrace the next:

Privateness Act 1988 (Cth)

The primary regulation that applies is the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), which units out the Australian Privateness Rules (APPs) that regulate the dealing with of private data by some Australian companies, authorities businesses, and personal well being service suppliers. This consists of data collected by means of employers monitoring their worker’s web utilization. Underneath this Act, employers should adjust to the APPs when amassing, utilizing, and disclosing private data, together with web utilization knowledge.

Moreover, beneath the APPs, employers are required to acquire consent from their staff earlier than amassing their private data, together with their looking historical past. Employers should additionally notify staff concerning the sorts of private data they gather and the way will probably be used, in addition to present entry to and correction of that data.

As well as, employers should take cheap steps to make sure the safety of the private data they gather, together with looking historical past. This consists of defending the knowledge from unauthorised entry or disclosure and making certain that it’s correct, full, and up-to-date.

State and Territory Legal guidelines

There are additionally state and territory-based surveillance legal guidelines that employers want to concentrate on, which govern the usage of surveillance gadgets and the monitoring of staff within the office. For instance, in New South Wales, the Office Surveillance Act 2005 (NSW) regulates the usage of surveillance gadgets, together with laptop monitoring, within the office.

Truthful Work Act 2009(Cth)

Though the Fair Work Act 2009 doesn’t instantly handle whether or not employers can verify their staff’ looking historical past, it does present staff safety towards illegal discrimination. Subsequently, to adjust to this Act, employers should not verify an worker’s looking historical past for a discriminatory motive, and subsequently employers should make sure that any monitoring of an worker’s web utilization is critical for a reputable enterprise goal and that it’s performed in an inexpensive and proportionate method. 

Workplace of the Australian Info Commissioner (OAIC)

Along with these legal guidelines, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) additionally supplies pointers for employers relating to the monitoring of their staff’ looking historical past and web utilization. The OAIC states that employers could monitor sure actions to make sure their staff are performing their duties and utilizing assets correctly. The OAIC additionally states that the place an employer has notified their staff that they are going to be monitoring their e-mail, web and different laptop assets, they may typically be allowed to take action. 

How will you verify your worker’s looking historical past when they’re working from dwelling?

COVID-19 has seen the majority of the workforce shift into working from dwelling. Whereas workers members are largely utilizing their very own Wi-Fi networks, enterprise IT insurance policies will nonetheless apply if workers are utilizing firm gear. Companies can monitor their staff’ exercise by means of the usage of put in surveillance software program on their gadgets. 

Subsequently, it is crucial for workers to solely use enterprise gear for work-related functions, even when at dwelling. A working from dwelling coverage could also be useful to bolster worker expectations when they’re working out of the workplace.


In conclusion, employers can monitor their staff’ web actions, together with checking their looking historical past, so long as they comply with sure authorized necessities. 

As an employer, if you happen to’re nonetheless feeling uncertain about how one can legally verify your staff’ looking historical past, you must rent a lawyer for authorized recommendation. A lawyer can present recommendation to just be sure you keep away from authorized penalties, keep away from unfair dismissal claims being introduced towards you for disciplining your staff and resolve points regarding breaches of your IT coverage.