Monitoring of Employees allowed in Hungary and employment tribunals regulate employment privacy issues

Andrea Klara Soos (Attorney-at-law, Sooslaw, Budapest, Hungary, E-mail: writes that Hungary replaced its Labour Code with a new legislation (“NLC”) which will enter into effect from 1 July 2012. The NLC’s purpose is to make life easier for employers: and “respects the economic and social interests of both the employers and employees”. This conclusion is relevant in particular for data protection issues.

The NLC contains express provisions regarding the monitoring of employees. The NLC states that the fundamental rights of the employees may be restricted by employers any time provided that they gave prior information on the restriction including the expected duration of such restrictions. As an example, according to the new act, employers are expressly entitled to monitor their employees, provided that they inform the employees properly and the monitoring “solely relates to the nature of the employment relationship”. Another provision of the NLC makes clear that an employer may apply sanctions for a conduct of the employee performed “before or after his/her working hours”. These two provisions implicitly allow the monitoring of employees beyond working hours. As a guarantee, the NLC states that “the private life of the employee may not be monitored by the employer”, however in the absence of relevant case-law it is a question which data can qualify as one “relating to employment relationship” and which is protected by the principle of mandatory respect of the privacy of the employee by the employer.

Two important other provisions of the NLC may help employers in interpreting the contradictory rules of the NLC:

(i) the so called interpretative principles state that the act shall be interpreted in light of the Acquis Communitaire of the EU, therefore any European Union case shall be followed by the Hungarian authorities and courts in this respect; and
(ii) employment tribunals will be competent for the application of the act even if the legal dispute relates to data protection law.

More detailed articles on these subject are available from PL&B.