Employee privacy

Learn about employer and employee rights and responsibilities around privacy at work.

Collecting personal information about employees

Employer responsibilities

As an employer, you must comply with the Privacy Act 2020 and Privacy Principles, which govern how you can collect, store, use and share employee-related information. 

The information you will collect from employees, and how you will store and use it, should be set out in a workplace policy or the .

Creating workplace policies and procedures

Privacy Act 2020 and the Privacy Principles – Office of the Privacy Commissioner(external link)

Employee rights 

As an employee, you can ask your employer for access to the personal information they hold about you. 

Your privacy rights – Office of the Privacy Commissioner (external link)

What information is my employer entitled to collect while I’m working? – Office of the Privacy Commissioner (external link)

Reporting serious wrongdoing

There are privacy protections for employees who report serious wrongdoing in their workplace. This is also called ‘whistleblowing’ or ‘making a protected disclosure’. 

Protected disclosure

Protecting the privacy of job applicants

Employers should only ask for personal information from job applicants if they need it to decide if the person is suitable for the role. Avoid asking questions about things that are not relevant and which could risk claims of discrimination, for example:

  • how old are you?
  • do you have any disabilities?
  • are you married?
  • what is your religion?
  • are you pregnant or planning to have children?
  • what is your ethnicity?
  • which political party do you vote for?
  • have you ever had any mental health issues? 

Employers should only contact referees provided by the job applicant. If the referees are not suitable, they should ask the applicant if there is someone else they can contact. If it’s necessary to speak to the applicant’s current employer and the applicant hasn’t given them as a referee, talk to the applicant and get their permission first.



What information can an employer request from job applicants? – Office of the Privacy Commissioner(external link)

Monitoring, recording and filming employees at work

Using cameras, software or other equipment to monitor, record and film employees at work must be done in line with the Privacy Act 2020 and privacy principles.

Employers who are considering monitoring, recording or filming employees should think about how it could affect employee morale and productivity. Employees might not feel trusted if they are being monitored at work. Employers who decide to go ahead should:

  • develop a workplace policy that explains why and when this will happen
  • make sure the policy complies with the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Privacy Act 2020
  • consult with employees (and if applicable)
  • make sure employees know about the policy and why it’s needed.

Can I record my employees? – Office of the Privacy Commissioner (external link)

Can I monitor employee use of work computers and accounts? – Office of the Privacy Commissioner(external link)

Searching personal belongings 

Employers do not have a right to search employees’ personal belongings unless they have a clear and legal reason to do so.

Does a search of my bag or other personal property raise any issues under the Privacy Act? – Office of the Privacy Commissioner(external link)

Contacting employees outside work hours

Employers should avoid contacting employees outside normal work hours unless it’s necessary, for example, if:

  • there’s an emergency
  • the employee is on call
  • there’s something important the employee needs to know, for example, to make sure they are properly consulted as part of a change process while on leave
  • the employee has not turned up for work and has not made contact to explain why
  • the employee is suspended.

Generally, an employer cannot enter an employee's home without their consent unless the law allows them to — for example, if the employer is also the landlord of the property. If the employer thinks an employee has stolen their property, they need to involve the police.

Personal relationships at work

Workplace friendships can improve job satisfaction, productivity and loyalty to the workplace. 

However, sometimes a personal relationship at work or outside work can become a problem — for example, it can create a conflict of interest. If this happens, the employer might need to know so they can take appropriate steps to minimise the conflict. 

For example, if a manager starts a relationship with someone who reports to them, the employer might move the employee or the manager to a different team. 

Any actions an employer takes must be in line with the employee’s employment agreement and any workplace policy.

Keeping your personal life private — tips for employees

As an employee, think about the balance between work and home that you want and what your boundaries are. This will not be the same for every person or workplace. You do not have to tell your employer what you do or who you spend time with outside work unless it impacts on your ability to do your job. 

For example, if you take medication that makes you drowsy and your job is to control dangerous machinery, you have a duty to tell your employer because it impacts on your ability to do your job safely. 

Some things you can do to keep work and home life separate are suggested below.

  • Avoid making unnecessary personal phone calls at work.
  • Avoid posting in social media about your private life.
  • Avoid commenting in social media about your job, employer or colleagues.
  • Adjust social media privacy settings to control what you share and who you share it with.
  • Don’t use your personal Facebook or other personal social media profiles for work.
  • Use your work email address for work and your personal email for everything else. You will not always have a right to privacy in your work email account and on your work computer.
  • Consider how you use the internet at work. Employers can monitor sites you are looking at to make sure they are appropriate.
  • Published:
  • Last modified:
  • Written for: Everyone
  • Share this page:
  • Print this page: