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BUSINESSES using “spyware” to snoop on work-from-home employees could be at risk of opening themselves up to costly legal disputes.

Rising numbers of companies are now using technology which allows them to track and monitor remotely based staff.

And forthcoming legislation, which is expected to allow employees to be able to insist on work from home from day one of their employment, is only likely to make the practice more common-place.

In April last year, Google queries for “remote monitoring” were up 212% year on year.

Yet by April this year, they’d continued to surge by another 243%.

One of the major players in the industry, ActivTrak, reports that during March 2020 alone, the firm scaled up from 50 client companies to 800. Over the course of the pandemic, the company has maintained that growth, today boasting 9,000 customers or more than 250,000 individual users.

Time Doctor, Teramind, and Hubstaff – which, together with ActivTrak, make up the bulk of the market have all seen similar growth from prospective customers.

Simon Gilmour, Employment Partner at Harper James Solicitors, said businesses using spyware technology need to be open with employees in order to avoid potential disputes later.

He said: “Post Lockdown, increasing numbers of businesses are now incorporating more flexible work from home models into their business structures, often doing so indefinitely.

“Naturally, in many cases employers will want to ensure they are able to track and monitor employee performance, which is why a competitive market has emerged for tech firms in providing this kind of technology.

“Seen by many as ‘spyware’ such tech can only legitimately be called this if employers fail to properly engage their staff and make clear it is being used.

“Businesses would be well-advised to be open, honest and upfront with their employees about any such methods they will be using to track performance. Those who don’t, could open themselves up to significant employee relations issues and complaints from staff, which can lead to long and often costly employment disputes. Getting legal advice in place before you set up a method of tracking staff performance is also advisable to ensure you are complying with legal requirements and best practice.”