Surveillance cameras and privacy at work
Many employers may wish to monitor their workplace for various reasons, often to prevent theft or to oversee what employees are actually doing whilst they should be working. Data protection legislation doesn't prevent employers from doing so, however the use of CCTV and video surveillance has recently raised the question as to whether using cameras in this way breaches Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family life).
In the case of Lopez Ribalda & Others v Spain, it was confirmed that covert surveillance in the work place is a breach of Article 8.
In the above case, a supermarket had installed CCTV to deal with suspected theft occurring amongst its employees. The employees were only told about the visible cameras, however they were not informed about a number of cameras which had been installed covertly. Some of the employees were then dismissed based on covert images and they claimed their Article 8 rights had been breached.
In a Spanish court, it was held that the actions of the supermarket were justified, appropriate, necessary and proportionate and there was no other measure that the supermarket could have followed which would have interfered with the employee’s rights less.
The ECHR disagreed and held that Article 8 had been violated. A fair balance between the parties’ rights had not been reached and the CCTV had presented a considerable intrusion into the private lives of the employees.
Key points for employers
Whilst employers are not prohibited from using surveillance cameras to monitor their employees, employers must be very careful to respect their right to a private life and must also comply with the regulations surrounding data protection.
If surveillance monitoring is required we would encourage employers to consider the following:
- introducing written policies and procedures regarding monitoring at work and ensuring that these are drawn to the employees’ attention;
- whether there are any less intrusive options which may satisfy the needs of the business (as this kind of surveillance can be considered excessive there must be a legitimate reason for it – making it crucial that other options are considered);
- how any footage would be stored to ensure that it is secure;
- how long to store the recordings for and how they will be processed (a fact which we recommend is communicated to all employees);
- how employees will be made aware of where CCTV cameras are located (this can be done by displaying clear, visible and legible signs).