New technology empowers employer surveillance activities

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technology(1).jpg" style="width: 208px; height: 160px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left;" />Employees who try to mislead their employers about the time they have worked can be easily caught out by new technology – and a recent Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision shows that the workplace watchdog considers false timesheets just cause for dismissal.

In Stuart v Downer New Zealand Ltd, a street cleaner who was dismissed for serious misconduct for falsifying his time sheets claimed that his dismissal was unjustified and overly harsh.

However, thanks to the GPS installed on the employee’s work truck, the company was able to provide evidence of a significant mismatch between the times of the trucks last stop and the finish time recorded on the employee’s timesheets. An analysis showed the employee claimed a total of 17 hours in excess of his lunch allowance, as well as almost 46 hours at home at the end of the day, over a period of six months.

ERA member David Appleton found that:


  • The company had carried out a sufficient and fair investigation into the employee’s explanation of events;
  • The conclusions the company drew from their investigation were reasonable; and
  • The company’s decision to dismiss the employee was appropriate and justified.

When asked about the case, Unite union president Gerard Hehir told media that new technology gave employers a much greater ability to monitor their employees. “If the company owns the piece of equipment, it is theirs to look through,” he said.

He listed the following as examples of technology that can be used by employers to monitor their employees:


  • Video cameras watched live by managers
  • GPS tracking through mobile phones
  • Keystroke monitoring of computers
  • Measuring time not spent on the phone (in some call centres)
  • Automatic monitoring of emails with key words
  • GPS tracking in work cars – to monitor speed and location
  • Reading text messages and work emails remotely
  • Facebook and webmail pages that the computer keeps

Key HR takeaway:

These days it is possible for employers and HR to keep tabs on the activities of employees via the technology owned, and operated, by the company. However, it is a good idea for employees to be made aware of the fact that the technology in question is in place and in operation. Companies should also ensure they have a relevant policy in place to deal with any issues that might arise.


Related story: Tracking app raises “Big Brother” privacy issues

  • GB on 20/11/2012 1:16:46 p.m.

    Great ERA outcome. wish I had been advised of this earlier. Just sorted an ee who over 3 months has taken aorudn 70hrs of work time at home. GPS tracker on vehicle - staff know they are there and their purpose and capabilty. Advice was can't sack, can't charge for theft (civil only), can't deduct to get money back. EE was given a formal final warning, they offered to pay which we accepted (we will invoice over 3 months) and other accountabiity options put in place. EE has lodged a PG over the final warning.

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