Technological advancements and the rise in popularity of social media more businesses are monitoring their employees’ conduct in the workplace. But is this legal and where do we draw the line? In general the use of security cameras is not illegal in the workplace, however, it depends on how these video surveillance systems are introduced, installed, monitored, and the purpose they serve in the workplace.
Installing Video Cameras in the Workplace
Businesses may see the need for installing video cameras for the purpose of security of the persons and property on the premises.
For video surveillance in the workplace to be valid the employer would need to take the following steps:
- Give ample notice, at least 2 weeks, to employees of that a CCTV camera will be set up in the workplace to provide video surveillance within the workplace
- Employees need to provide consent for the installation of the CCTV camera being installed and to record
- A warning sign in a visible area needs to notify employees and visitors to the workplace that the workplace has a CCTV camera
- The CCTV camera needs to be visible
Before undertaking such steps, we recommend speaking to one of our Employment Lawyers in Perth, Western Australia.
If an employer installs a video surveillance system in the workplace without the knowledge and consent of the employees and uses the video surveillance system to monitor its employees, the employer is in breach of the Surveillance Devices Act 1998 (WA) and can be find up to $50,000 (see section 6(b)). Similarly if an employee installs a video surveillance system to secretly record and monitor his/her colleagues without their knowledge and consent, he/she is breaking the law and can be fined up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned for 12 months (see section 6(a)).
An employer cannot install secret video camera surveillance of its employees based on a mere suspicion without evidence that an employee is carrying out inappropriate activities in the workplace that are either illegal or subject to misconduct. In order for the employer to ensure a safe working environment for its employees and visitors, certain steps would need to be taken by the business before undertaking cover video surveillance in the workplace without compromising the Australian Privacy Principles set out in the Commonwealth’s Privacy Act.
The following situations can permit the employer to carry out covert video surveillance at the workplace (see section 6(3), Surveillance Devices Act 1998(WA)):
• A warrant must be issued by the Court; or
• Consent is given from all parties subject to the video surveillance; or
• Covert video surveillance is carried out in accordance with the law of the Commonwealth of Australia in the following situations:
- That person’s duty as a law enforcement officer; or
- Carried out by a law enforcement officer in the course of an investigation into a suspected criminal offence; or
- Reasonably necessary to protect the employer’s lawful interests
If you need more information, contact us for employment law advice. We are able to have an initial no obligation discussion with you to help you decide if you wish to engage us.