The UK has 1% of the world’s population but 20% of all CCTV surveillance cameras. So there’s a good chance you have cameras in your workplace too.

The law does allow employers to monitor employees including CCTV, but it is important to have clear rules in place and remember your obligations under the Data Protection Act.

Big brother is watching you

There should be a clear business reason for implementing CCTV in your workplace rather than other less intrusive methods. Reasons for installing surveillance might include:

  • prevention of theft
  • prevention of violence
  • prevention of other forms of misconduct, for example, damage
  • compliance with Health & Safety rules.

If, for example, you put CCTV cameras in the workplace because you want to stop theft, the footage captured should only be used for that specific purpose.

Inform the ICO

You need to inform the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) of what you are doing and the reasons for implementing CCTV in your workplace.

Make employees aware

When you install CCTV, you should make employees aware that they are being recorded by displaying clear signs in the areas where it is in operation.

It is important that you notify employees of the reason for CTTV in the workplace and explain that you have explored other options, but considered that this was the most effective and proportionate way. You should clearly explain how information is being kept secure, who will have access to the footage, how long the recordings will be kept after being captured, whether it will affect all employees or just a few, etc.

Coverage

You should not use CCTV surveillance in areas where employees would reasonably expect to be private, for example in toilets or changing rooms. Additionally, you should only be capturing footage of the workplace, not adjacent streets or the neighbouring vicinity.

Subject access requests

Under the Data Protection Act, employees are entitled to make a “subject access request” regarding personal data about themselves. This includes the right to see CCTV recordings. They can request:

  • what personal data is being processed
  • what it is being used for
  • who it is being disclosed to or could potentially be disclosed to.

You can charge up to £10 to deal with this request and must comply with the request within 40 days. Contact your Employment Law Adviser for advice on this.

Covert monitoring

Covert monitoring should not be the norm. The ICO say that it is rarely justified and should only be used in exceptional circumstances. It needs to be sanctioned by a member of senior management, who is satisfied that there are grounds for suspecting criminal activity or equivalent malpractice and that informing people of the monitoring would “prejudice its prevention or detection”.

Some other key points are:

  • You should undertake a written impact assessment to determine whether it is justified.
  • Make sure that any covert monitoring is strictly targeted at obtaining evidence within a set timeframe and that it does not continue after the investigation is complete.
  • Refrain from undertaking surveillance in areas which employees would genuinely and reasonably expect to be private.
  • If you decide to use a private investigator, there must be a contract that ensures the investigator only gathers evidence in a way that satisfies and fulfils the employer’s duties under the Data Protection Act.
  • The information obtained through covert monitoring should only be used for the prevention or detection of criminal activity or equivalent malpractice. All other information should be ignored, unless it exposes something that no employer could reasonably be expected to ignore.

If you wish to implement CCTV in your workplace or are considering covert monitoring, contact your Ellis Whittam Employment Law Adviser who will be able to guide you.

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