Workplace monitoring – what is permitted?

The introduction of video surveillance at a workplace may prove to be a sensitive matter for employees and it is crucial to get it right. Broadly, employers have the right to monitor a wide range of activities of their employees at work, including via CCTV, use of automated software and log-checking (websites visited, calls made, correspondence received, etc.).

In doing so, however, employers must comply with certain rules and restrictions imposed by the Data Protection legislation, of which the key requirements are as follows:

· identify the reasons for monitoring staff and the benefits that this will bring and notify your staff;

· carry out an impact assessment, identifying any negative effects the monitoring may have on staff;

· consider whether there are any, less intrusive, alternatives to monitoring; and

· make a decision on whether the monitoring is justified in light of the above factors.

If, having carefully considered all ‘pros’ and ‘cons’, the employer is satisfied and reasonably believes that the monitoring would be justified, it will usually not need the consent of individual members of staff.

Once the decision has been made that the monitoring is justified, ACAS suggests that employers take the following steps as good practice and to ensure that they do not fall foul of the relevant data protection and privacy laws:

· put in place written policies and procedures on how the monitoring will be conducted;

· notify your staff what information will be recorded and how long it will be kept;

· display signs to say where the locations of the cameras are;

· ensure that any information collected through monitoring is kept secure.

Some employers monitor their workers without informing them that this is happening, for example, by use of hidden cameras or audio devices. This is usually not legal. Guidance under data protection law says that secret monitoring should not be allowed unless there is serious crime involved - for example, dealing drugs. In such case, monitoring must be obtained as quickly as possible, and only as part of a specific investigation. The monitoring must stop when the investigation has finished.

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